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MACMILLAN  AND  CO..   Limited 












Professor  J.  B.  BURY,   Litt.D. 


s  ^l 




1 9  I  I 



The  life  of  the  Emperor  Marcus  Aurelius  An- 
toninus, generally  known  to  the  world  as  Helio- 
gabalus,  is  as  yet  shrouded  in  impenetrable  mystery. 
The  picture  we  have  of  the  reign  is  that  of  an  im- 
perial orgy — sacrilegious,  necromantic,  and  obscene. 
The  boy  Emperor,  who  reigned  from  his  fourteenth  to 
his  eighteenth  year,  is  depicted  amongst  that  crowd 
of  tyrants  who  held  the  throne  of  Imperial  Rome, 
by  the  help  of  the  praetorian  army,  as  one  of  the  most 
tyrannical,  certainly  as  the  most  debased. 

Few  people  have  made  any  study  of  the  docu- 
ments which  relate  to  this  particular  period,  and 
fewer  still  have  taken  the  trouble  to  inquire  whether 
the  accounts  of  the  Scriptores  are  trustworthy  or 
consonant  with  the  known  facts. 

To  this  present  time  no  account  of  the  life  of  this 
Emperor  has  been  published.  Histories  of  the 
decline  and  fall  of  Imperial  Rome  there  are  in 
plenty  ;  other  reigns  have  been  examined  in  detail ; 
German  critics  have  sifted  the  trustworthiness  of  the 
documents,  few  in  number  and  all  late  in  date,  which 


refer  to  other  reigns  ;  so  far  nothing  has  been  done 
on  the  life  of  Elagabalus. 

The  present  writer  started  this  study  with  the 
view  that  the  Syrian  boy- Emperor  was,  in  all 
probability,  what  his  biographers  have  painted  him, 
and  what  all  other  writers  have  accepted  as  being  a 
substantially  correct  account  of  the  absence  of  mind, 
will,  policy,  and  authority  which  he  was  supposed  to 
have  betrayed,  along  with  other  even  more  repre- 
hensible characteristics. 

The  first  reason  to  doubt  this  estimate  came 
from  the  continually  recurring  mention  of  a  per- 
petual struggle  between  the  Emperor  and  his  female 
relatives  ;  a  fight  in  which  the  boy  was  always  worst- 
ing able  and  resolute  women,  carrying  his  point 
with  consummate  tact  and  ability,  while  allowing  the 
women  a  certain  show  of  dignity  and  position,  where 
it  in  no  way  diminished  the  imperial  authority  or 
his  own  prerogative. 

This  circumstance  alone  was  scarcely  conson- 
ant with  Lampridius'  account  of  a  mere  youthful 
debauchee,  who  had  neither  inclination  nor  will  for 
anything,  save  a  low  desire  to  wallow  in  vice  and 
unspeakable  horrors  as  the  be-all  and  end-all  of  his 

On  further  inquiry,  another  circumstance  ob- 
truded itself,  namely,  that  the  boy  had  a  vast 
religious  scheme  or  policy,  which  he  was  bent 
on  imposing  on  his  subjects  in  Rome,  and 
indeed  throughout  the  world.     This  policy  was  the 


unification  of  churches  in  one  great  monotheistic 

Religion  maybe  neurotic  in  itself,  but  the  scheme 
of  Elagabalus  was  not  essentially  so.  Certainly  the 
course  of  action  by  which  he  purposed  to  effect  his 
ideal  was  not  that  of  a  mere  sensualist.  It  showed 
understanding,  persistency,  and  dogged  determina- 
tion ;  it  was  not  popular,  because  in  the  general 
incredulity,  the  earlier  deities  had  lost  even  the 
immortality  of  mummies. 

Yet  another  reason  which  forced  one  to  disagree 
with  the  usual  summary  of  the  character  under 
discussion  was  that,  despite  (i)  the  awful  accounts  of 
the  imperial  orgies ;  (2)  the  accusations  brought 
against  the  cruelty  and  incompetency  of  the  govern- 
ment ;  (3)  the  announcement  that  all  good  men  were 
exterminated  in  the  general  lust  for  destruction  of 
such  worthies ;  (4)  the  account  of  the  class  and 
calibre  of  the  men  employed  in  all  state  offices  ; 
(despite  all  this)  the  authors  inform  us  that  the  state 
did  not  sufifer  from  the  effects  of  the  reign.  This 
was  obviously  an  impossibility  at  the  outset,  and  the 
terminological  inexactitude  became  even  more  ap- 
parent when  all  the  known  good  men  were  mentioned 
as  peaceably  holding  ofifice,  not  only  during  the  reign 
in  question,  but  in  that  of  Elagabalus'  successor ; 
either  they  had  been  resurrected  or  had  never  been 

Again,  the  account  given  of  the  military  policy 
is  not  that  which  would  be  the  work  of  a  weakling. 


The  fiscal  policy  may  have  been  unchanged,  but  the 
edict  which  enforced  the  payment  of  VectigaHa  in 
gold,  showed  a  considerable  amount  of  sense,  in 
demanding  the  payment  of  taxes  in  the  one  coin 
whose  standard  had  been  maintained  when  all  others 
had  been  debased  by  preceding  Emperors,  and  no 
one  had  been  worse  than  the  great  financier  Sep- 
timius  Severus  in  this  debasing  of  the  currency. 

In  legal  matters  alone  we  are  told  that  the  period 
was  sterile,  because  only  five  decrees  of  the  reign  are 
recorded  by  the  editors  of  the  Prosopographia.  This 
may  be  true,  but  it  is  quite  possible,  in  fact  more 
than  probable,  that  in  later  redactions  much  of  the 
work  which  Papinian,  Paul,  Ulpian,  and  other  such 
produced  during  this  reign  has  been  embodied  in 
later  decrees  or  codifications,  and  one  can  scarcely 
imagine  that  these  men  were  entirely  sterile  for  four 
years  in  the  zenith  of  their  authority. 

Again,  it  is  most  noticeable  that  in  the  mass  of 
abuse  and  obvious  animus  which  the  "  life  "  exhibits, 
there  is  not  one  definite  act  of  cruelty  reported  ;  no 
wanton  murder  is  cited ;  no  hint  given  that  the 
people  were  discontented  with  the  appointments 
made,  or  that  they  suffered  from  any  of  the  mis- 
rule which  had  been  so  prevalent  for  years  past. 
On  the  other  hand,  we  are  told  that  the  people 
considered  Elagabalus  a  worthy  Emperor,  despite 
all  that  could  be  said  to  his  discredit. 

Chiefly  it  was  this  too  obvious  animus,  shown  on 
each  page  of  the  documents,  which  led  the  writer  to 


examine  the  opinions  of  German  and  Italian  critics 
on  the  measure  of  credibility  which  could  safely  be 
attached  to  the  Scriptores  Historiae  Augustae.  It 
was  an  agreeable  surprise  to  find  that  their  estimates 
of  the  Scriptores  ranged  from  those  of  men  who 
stigmatised  the  whole  collection  as  an  impudent  and 
unenlightened  forgery  to  men  who,  like  Mommsen, 
contended  that,  though  originally  the  lives  might 
have  had  some  real  historical  value,  they  had  been 
so  edited  and  enlarged  as  to  lack  the  essential 
weight  of  historical  evidence,  and  contained,  as 
they  stood,  but  a  modicum  of  consecutive  and 
unvarnished  fact. 

Authorities  being  so  far  in  accord,  the  present 
writer  set  to  work  to  sift  the  accounts  which  were 
obviously  quite  unnaturally  biased,  and  to  separate 
what  was  merely  stupidly  contradictory  from  what 
was  mutually  exclusive. 

This  method  has  been  applied  merely  to  the  first 
seventeen  sections  of  Lampridius'  work,  the  portion 
which  professes  to  contain  a  more  or  less  historical 
account  of  the  events  from  Elagabalus'  entry  into 
Rome  to  his  disappearance  into  the  main  drain  of 
the  city. 

In  the  latter  portion  of  the  life  there  is  a  wealth 
of  biographical  detail,  which,  in  plain  English, 
means  an  account  in  cxtcnso  of  what  has  been  already 
described  too  luridly  in  the  foregoing  sections.  It 
is  written  in  Latin,  and  has  never  been  translated 
into  English,  to  the  writer's  knowledge,   nor  has  he 


any  intention  of  undertaking  the  work  at  this  present 
or  any  other  time,  as  he  has  no  desire  to  land 
himself,  with  the  printers  and  publishers,  in  the 
dock  at  the  Old  Bailey,  in  an  unenviable,  if  not 
an  invidious  and  notorious  position. 

Those,  however,  who  are  capable  of  reading  the 
Latin  tongue,  and  therefore  inured  against  further 
corruption,  will  find  an  excellent  edition  published 
in  Paris  by  M.  Panckoucke  in  1847.  The  last  three 
chapters  in  the  present  volume  are  an  attempt  to 
bring  together  all  the  material  capable  of  publication 
in  these  seventeen  sections,  and  take  the  form  of  three 
essays  on  the  main  figures  of  the  Emperor's  psycho- 
logical imagination.  They  are  in  no  way  an  en- 
deavour to  expurgate  the  sections  referred  to,  as 
any  such  attempt  would  leave  one  with  the  numerals 
as  headings  and  the  word  "  Finis"  half-way  down  a 
sheet  of  notepaper.  It  is  better  for  the  sapient  to 
read  the  chapters  for  themselves,  and  so  all  men  will 
be  satisfied. 

It  has  also  been  impossible,  on  the  same  grounds, 
to  criticise  the  statements  here  made  ;  the  greater 
part  are,  like  those  in  the  biographical  portion, 
frankly  impossible,  when  not  mutually  exclusive.  It 
is  needless  to  say  that  the  author  accepts  the  whole 
with  all  the  Attic  salt  at  his  disposal. 

Another  anomaly  that  may  strike  the  reader  is 
the  fact  that  various  names  are  used  to  designate  the 
Emperor.  Tristran  remarks  that  "  they  are  as  many 
as  the  hydra  has  heads."     The  present  idea  is  to 


use  the  titles  which  the  boy  bore  at  the  different 
stages  of  his  life,  rather  than  apply  to  him  on  all 
occasions  the  nickname  which  was  attached  to  him 
after  his  death. 

In  the  earlier  part  of  the  work  I  have  referred 
to  the  youth  as  Varius  and  Bassianus,  the  two  names 
which  appear  most  frequently,  in  reference  to  his 
reputed  fathers,  but  have  neglected  Avitus,  by 
which  title  he  is  occasionally  known,  in  reference  to 
his  grandfather,  as  also  that  of  Lupus,  which  is 
sometimes  found  in  Dion,  because,  as  Dr.  Wotton 
remarks,  there  is  no  means  of  finding  out  whether 
he  was  so  called  (if  ever  he  was  given  the  name  at 
all)  on  account  of  some  ancestry,  by  reason  of  a 
false  reading,  or  on  account  of  some  other  matter 
now  long  laid  to  rest. 

After  the  Proclamation,  I  have  preferred  to  call 
the  Emperor  by  his  official  name,  Marcus  Aurelius 
Antoninus,  or  Antonine  for  short,  as  this  is  the  only 
manner  in  which  the  coins,  inscriptions,  and  docu- 
ments describe  him.  After  his  death,  it  seems 
allowable  to  give  him  the  nickname  which  his 
relations  and  later  biographers  have  applied  to  him, 
namely,  the  latinised  form  of  the  name  of  his  God. 
I  have  nowhere  adopted  the  later  Greek  spelling  or 
adaptation,  Heliogabalus,  either  when  referring  to 
the  God  of  the  Emesans  or  to  the  Emperor  himself. 
The  only  form  in  which  the  name  occurs  in  in- 
scriptions is  in  describing  the  Emperor  as  "  Priest 
of   Elagabal "   or    the    Sun.      Lampridius    certainly 


Hellenised  its  form  a  century  later,  on  what  grounds 
is  by  no  means  clear,  when  one  realises  that  neither 
the  boy  nor  his  God  had  any  trace  of  Greek  blood, 
tradition,  or  philosophy  about  them,  and  that  the 
identification  of  a  particular  Syrian  monotheism 
with  Mithraism  or  general  Sun  worship  is  not 
universally  admitted  as  a  necessary  consequence, 
either  in  the  case  of  Elagabal,  Jehovah,  or  indeed 
in  that  of  any  of  the  other  "  El "  claimants  to  ex- 
clusiveness,  though  the  balance  of  probability  may 
lie  on  the  side  of  the  identification.  It  is  further 
unnecessary  to  drag  in  the  Hellenised  form  of 
the  Emperor's  name  in  order  to  pander  to  a 
popular  and  erroneous  conception  of  the  reign, 
which  conception  this  book  is  designed  to  combat 
and  generally  offend.  Heliogabalus  is  nevertheless 
the  sole  title  by  which  this  Emperor  is  known  to 
the  world  at  large,  in  consequence  of  which  I  have 
allowed  the  name  to  stand  on  the  title-page,  chiefly 
in  order  that  Mrs.  Grundy's  prurient  mind  may 
know,  before  she  buys  or  borrows  this  volume,  that 
it  is  the  record  of  a  life  at  which  she  may  expect  to 
be  shocked,  though  she  will  in  all  probability  find 
herself  yawning  before  the  middle  of  the  intro- 
ductory chapter. 

As  I  understand  the  reign,  the  main  object  on 
the  part  of  the  boy's  murderers  in  nicknaming  him 
Elagabalus  after  his  death,  was  to  throw  discredit 
on  his  memory  by  depriving  him  of  the  venerated 
title  Antonine,  and  substituting  therefor  the  name 

PREFACE  xiii 

of  a  Syrian  monotheistic  deity,  who  by  his  ex- 
clusiveness  was  an  offence  and  a  byword  in  the 
eyes  of  the  virile,  pantheistic  philosophy  which  then 
held  sway. 

A  word  must  also  be  said  as  to  the  attitude  in 
leaving  untouched  ~  ^ch  of  the  scandal  attaching  to 
this  Emperor's  name.  I  hav-e  only  been  able  to 
deal  with  the  public  side  of  his  character,  as  there 
are  no  coins  or  inscriptions  which  refer  to  his  private 
life,  and  have  in  consequence  been  forced  to  quote 
what  the  tradition,  gained  from  his  traducers'  writings, 
states  was  his  unfortunate  abnormality. 

These  traditions  may  be  true  wholly  or  in  part, 
they  certainly  could  only  be  disproved  by  the  actual 
persons  implicated,  who  hav^e  written  neither  for 
nor  against  the  Emperor's  psychological  condition. 
The  traditions,  however,  as  far  as  they  treat  of  the 
Dublic  position  and  reputation  of  the  Emperor,  have 
been  shown  to  be  grossly  unfair  where  they  are  not 
horribly  untruthful,  and  may  be — in  all  probability- 
are — of  an  equal  value,  when  they  discuss  private 
practices  about  which  no  one  can  have  had 
any  particular  knowledge  except  his  actual  accom- 
plices. Suffice  it  to  say,  that  any  stick  is  good 
enough  to  beat  a  dog  with  once  he  is  incapable  of 
defending  himself,  and  in  this  case  it  has  been  laid 
about  Antonine's  shoulders  with  almost  diabolical 

I  much  regret  that  I   have  been  unable  to  find 
any  portraits  of  the  Emperor  for  whose  authenticity 


Bernouilli  will  vouch.  Alone  of  the  whole  family- 
there  remain  authentic  busts  of  Julia  Mamaea  and 
Julia  Paula,  neither  of  whom  are  important  enough 
to  be  included,  since  we  are  unable  to  give  a  portrait 
of  Elagabalus  himself.  I  have  therefore  confined 
myself  to  the  use  of  coins,  whose  veracity  is  un- 
doubted, hoping  that  the  reader  will  supply  from 
his  imagination  that  charm  and  beauty  which  the 
biographers  have  been  unwillingly  forced  to  allow 
both  to  the  Emperor  and  his  mother. 

In  the  preparation  of  this  work  I  have  had  much 
valuable  and  kindly  assistance,  for  which  I  desire  to 
acknowledge  my  deep  indebtedness  here.  First,  to 
Professor  Bury  of  Cambridge,  for  his  unwearying  and 
sage  advice  on  my  whole  manuscript ;  also  to  Dr. 
Bussell,  Vice-Principal  of  Brasenose  College,  Ox- 
ford, for  his  interest  and  kindly  corrections ;  to 
the  authorities  in  the  Bodleian  Library ;  to  the 
assistants  in  the  British  Museum,  especially  to  Mr. 
Philip  Wilson  and  Mr.  A.  J.  Ellis  for  their  con- 
tinued help  in  my  work  there,  and  to  Mr.  Allen 
for  the  time  and  care  he  has  spent  in  helping  me 
find  the  coins  that  explain  the  text. 

I  have  also  to  acknowledge  with  sincere  thanks 
the  permission  of  Mr.  E.  E.  Saltus  of  Harvard 
University  to  quote  his  vivid  and  beautiful  studies 
on  the  Roman  Empire  and  her  Customs.  I  am 
deeply  indebted  to  Mr.  Walter  Pater,  Mr.  J.  A. 
Symonds,  and  Mr.  Saltus  for  many  a  tournure 
de  phrase    and    picturesque   rendering   of  Tacitus, 


Suetonius,  Lampridius,  and  the  rest.  I  also  desire 
to  thank  Dr.  Counsell  of  New  College,  Oxford, 
and  Dr.  Bailey  of  the  Warneford  Asylum,  not  only 
for  their  help  in  correcting  my  proofs,  but  also  for 
their  assistance  in  the  preparation  of  my  chapter  on 

To  all  these  gentlemen  I  owe  a  great  debt, 
which,  I  hope,  the  general  public  will  repay  by  an 
appreciation  of  their  work.  We  have  endeavoured 
to  right  a  wrong ;  if  our  efforts  are  in  any  way 
successful,  the  reader  will  acknowledge  that  this 
maiivais  quart  d'heure,  which  has  been  stigmatised 
as  full  of  impossible  situations  and  intolerable 
surprises,  is  in  reality  a  very  human  life  which,  like 
our  own,  has  its  exquisite  moments  of  which  we 
would  as  soon  deprive  ourselves  as  Elagabalus. 




Introduction       .......       xxiii 

PART    I 

General  sketch  of  conditions,  i.  The  Augustan  Histories  and  their  writers,  2. 
Lampridius,  author  of  the  Life  of  Elagabalus,  4.  First  attempts  at 
criticism,  4.  Modern  criticism,  4.  Latin  sources  :  Marias  Maximus,  5. 
Greek  sources  :  Dion  Cassius,  Xiphilinus,  7.  Ilerodian,  8.  General 
attack  on  the  authenticity  of  the  "  Lives,"  9.  Momrasen's  opinion,  10. 
Peter,  Richter,  Dessau,  Seeck,  Klebs,  Kornemann,  11-15.  Italian 
opinion,  15.  General  opinion  of  the  biographies,  16.  Reasons  for  the 
tainted  sources,  18.  Church  historians,  19;  Jurisprudence,  21.  Numis- 
matists, 21.      Object  of  this  work,  23. 


Emesa,  24.  High-Priest  Kings,  25.  Septimius  Severus,  27.  Julius  Bassianus, 
27.  Julia  Domna's  marriage,  28.  Caracalla's  birth,  29.  Septimius 
Severus,  Emperor,  30.  Julia's  court,  31.  Maesa  comes  to  Rome  with 
her  family,  31.  Marriage  of  Soaemias,  34.  Birth  of  Elagabalus,  35. 
Paternity  of  Elagabalus,  35.  Birthplace  of  Elagabalus,  36.  Julia 
Mamaea,  her  marriage,  and  her  connection  with  Caracalla,  38.  Macrinus 
Praetorian  Praefect,  41.  His  plot  against  Caracalla,  42.  Election  of 
Macrinus,  43.  Julia's  position,  43.  Her  work  to  recover  the  empire, 
43.      Banishment  and  death,  44. 


Maesa's  return  to  Emesa,  46.  Macrinus'  weakness  and  tyranny,  47.  The 
legion  at  Emesa,  48.  Bassianus  High-Priest,  49.  Worship  of  Elagabal, 
50.      Bassianus'  religious  outlook,  51.      Eutychianus  and  Gannys  corrupt 



the  soldiers,  S3.  Date  of  the  proclamation  of  Elagabalus,  55.  Maciinus 
astonished,  56.  The  Empire  in  favour  of  Bassianus,  Julian's  expedi- 
tion, 59.  Deserters  to  Bassianus,  61.  Macrinus  at  Apamea,  and 
Diadumenianus'  elevation,  63.  Macrinus  retires  to  Antioch,  66. 
Bassianus  wins  allegiance  of  soldiers  at  Apamea,  67.  Dion  on  the 
dates  of  proclamation  and  battle,  67.  Arval  Brothers'  meeting,  68. 
Wirth,  69.  Battleof  Immae,  69.  Antonine  at  Antioch,  71.  Macrinus' 
escape,  72.      Capture  and  death,  74.     Character  of  Macrinus,  75. 


Antonine's  refusal  to  allow  the  sack  of  Antioch,  77.  Chief  minister,  78. 
Antonine's  temperament,  79.  Acts  of  the  new  Government,  81. 
Amnesty,  83.  Position  of  the  Senate,  84.  Delight  of  Rome,  86. 
Dismissal  of  troops,  87.  Treasonable  attempts  and  pretenders,  88. 
Elagabal  to  accompany  the  Emperor,  91.  Journey  to  Nicomedia,  92. 
Winter  in  Asia  Minor,  93.  Illness  of  the  Emperor,  94.  Xiphilinus  on 
Antonine's  religion,  95.  Monotheistic  or  Mithraic  not  polytheistic,  96. 
Death  of  Gannys,  1 01.  Antonine's  character,  102.  His  popularity 
and  his  taxation,  104. 


Date  of  arrival  in  Rome  discussed,  107.  The  entry  into  the  city  according 
to  Herodian,  110.  First  marriage.  III.  The  temples,  112.  The 
scheme  for  the  unifying  of  religions,  114.  The  worship,  115.  The 
Eastern  cults,  115.  Date  of  scheme  discussed,  1 18.  Reasons  for  its 
failure,  118.  Women  in  the  Senate,  1 19.  Senaculum,  121.  Lampridius 
on  the  Emperor's  popularity,  124.  Charges  against  the  Administration, 
125.  Divorce  of  Julia  Paula,  126.  Pastimes,  127.  Summary,  128. 
Elagabal's  alliance  with  Vesta,  Antonine's  with  Aquilia  Sevcra,  129. 
Pomponius  Bassus'  plot,  131.  Antonine  divorces  Elagabal  from 
Minerva,  himself  from  Aquilia  Severa,  132.  Sends  for  Tanit  from 
Carthage,  133.  Marries  Annia  Faustina,  134.  Alliance  of  Maesa  and 
Mamaea,  135. 


Lampridius  on  Alexander,  137.  Seius  Carus'  plot,  139.  Military  ex- 
penditure, 140.  Maesa's  plan  for  the  adoption  of  Alexander,  141. 
The  Emperor's  reasons  for  concurrence,  142.  Name  Alexander  accounted 
for,  144.  Date  of  adoption  discussed,  145.  Position  after  adoption, 
146.  Alexander's  titles,  147.  Antonine's  endeavours,  148.  Antonine's 
resolve  to  divorce  Annia  Faustina  and  disown  Alexander,  1 50.  Accusa- 
tions against  the  Government,  151.     Antonine's  attempt  to  assassinate 


Alexander  discussed,  152.  Antonine  goes  to  Praetorian  camp,  154. 
Camp  conference,  155.  Hatred  of  Maesa  and  Mamaea  testified  againsi 
Antonine,  157.  Mamaea's  precautions,  158.  Antonine's  preparations 
for  suicide,  160.  Alexander  designated  Consul,  160.  The  Emperor's 
refusal  and  reasons  for  his  compliance,  161.  Lampridius  on  Julius 
Sabinus,  163.  Ulpian  and  Silvinus,  164.  Reasons  for  the  murder  and 
the  various  accounts,  165.  Criticism  on  the  above,  170.  The  treat- 
ment of  Elagabalus'  body,  171. 


The  Emperor  set  free  to  further  his  cult,  173.  The  procession,  174.  Mis- 
management and  appointments,  178.  Freedmen,  180.  Return  of 
Aquilia  Severa,  183.  Desire  for  military  glory,  184.  The  names  of 
the  Emperor,  185.  Activity  in  building,  186.  Military  disafTection, 
its  causes  and  result,  188.  Date  of  Elagabalus'  murder  and  length  of 
reign  discussed,  191.  Date  for  renewal  of  tribunician  power  discussed, 
194.  Elagabalus'  interest  in  public  affairs,  198.  The  treatment  of 
inscriptions,  198.     Outlook  of  the  Roman  world,  200. 


Roman  views  on  matrimony,  203.  Elagabalus'  marriage  with  Julia  Paula, 
205.  Position  of  Julius  Paulus,  206.  Serviez,  etc.,  on  Julia  Paula, 
207.  Dates  of  this  marriage  and  divorce,  20S.  Elagabalus'  marriage 
with  Aquilia  Severa,  211.  \'esta]s  discussed,  211.  Roman  religion. 
212.  Elagabalus'  lack  of  prejudice,  214.  His  explanation  to  the 
Senate,  215.  Family  of  Aquilia  Severa,  215.  Probable  dates  of 
marriage  and  divorce,  216-18.  Maesa's  desire  for  an  alliance  with  the 
nobility,  21S.  Annia  Faustina  chosen,  her  family  discussed,  222. 
Her  age  and  her  divorce,  223.  Further  marriages  discussed,  224. 
Elagabalus'  return  to  Aquilia,  225. 


Lampridius'  Life  of  Elagabalus  impossible,  227.  Elagabalus  a  psycho- 
sexual  hermaphrodite,  not  wicked,  229.  The  condition  quite  usual 
then  as  now,  229.  Virtue  a  virile  quality,  not  a  neurotic  negation,  229. 
The  Phallus  natural  and  omnipresent  typifies  joy  and  fruitfulness,  230. 
Elagabalus  has  strong  homosexual  nymphomania  and  everj-  inducement 


to  gratify  his  feminine  instinct,  231.  His  nature  incredibly  open 
and  affectionate,  232.  Maesa  an  aggravating  factor,  234.  Modern 
authorities  0:1  similarly  inverted  cases  to-day,  234.  Biblical  parallels, 
Greek  instances,  modern  religious  tendencies,  234.  Normal  intolerance 
largely  hypocritical,  235.  The  usual  instincts  of  such  natures,  235. 
Elagabalus'  love  of  flowers,  feasts,  and  teasing,  236.  His  marriages 
psychologically  considered,  238.  His  castration  and  desire  for  an  opera- 
tion which  might  produce  the  female  organs  discussed,  238.  Elagabalus' 
marriage  with  Hierocles,  239.  Hierocles  and  Zoticus  discussed,  239. 
Comparison  with  Messalina,  240.  Spintries,  240.  Elagabalus'  love 
of  colour,  241.  His  frankness,  241.  Greek  love  opposed  to  effeminacy, 
242.  Gulick  on  the  psychology,  on  Christianity,  242.  Effeminacy,  not 
homosexuality,  disgusts  Roman  world  and  gives  reason  for  Elagabalus' 
downfall,  244. 


Description  of  Nero's  golden  house,  245.  Elagabalus  compared  with  Nero, 
246.  Pastimes,  prodigalities,  and  dress,  246.  Extravagances  of  ritual, 
250.  Congiaries  and  games,  251.  Table  appointments  and  food,  252. 
Maecenas'  feast,  254.  Perfumes,  256.  Fish,  258.  The  spectacles 
described,  260.  Gladiators  discussed,  262.  Elagabalus'  skill  as  a 
sportsman,  263.  The  lotteries,  264.  Elagabalus'  devices  for  suicide, 
265.     The  psychology  of  extravagance,  266. 


Elagabalus'  piety,  267.  Constantine  the  opponent  of  other  monotheisms, 
268.  Theories  of  religion,  269.  Civilised  religion  becomes  philo- 
sophical, 269.  Rome  both  atheist  and  credulous,  270.  Civic  religion 
leaves  the  forces  of  sex  and  superstition  out  of  count,  270.  Gods  always 
necessary  to  the  superstitious,  the  more  mystical  the  more  attractive, 
271.  Semetic  rituals  attract  the  mob,  273.  Elagabal  exclusive  and 
absorbs  other  cults,  273.  Elagabalus'  scheme  Erastian,  compared  with 
Tudor  conception,  273.  Elagabalus  will  not  persecute,  276.  Religion 
and  castration,  276.  Elagabalus  no  idolator,  277.  His  mistake  in 
trying  to  amalgamate  the  hated  Judaism  with  Roman  deities,  277. 
Marriages  of  Elagabal,  278.  Human  sacrifices  discussed,  280.  The 
column  for  the  meteorite,  281.  Contest  between  religion  and  dogma, 
282.  The  numbers  of  the  mob  prevail  against  the  rationalists,  284. 
Rome  bored  with  all  Gods,  hence  Elagabalus'  failure,  2S5. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY  ......       289 

INDEX       ........        299 


Facing  page 
Coin  of  Antoninus  Pius,  struck  at  Emesa  (British   Museum)  26 

Coin    of    Marcus    Aurelius    Antoninus    (Caracalla)    (British 

Museum)  ......  26 

Medal  of  JuHa  Domna  Pia,  Empress  (British  Museum)  40 

Coin  of  Julia  Maesa  Augusta  (British  Museum)  .  .  40 

Coin  of  Julia  Soaemias  Augusta  (British  Museum)     .  .  40 

Coin  of  Julia  Mamaea  Augusta  (British  Museum)      .  .  40 

Coin    of    Marcus    Aurelius    Antoninus    (Caracalla)     (British 

Museum)  .  .  .  .  .60 

Coin    of   Marcus   Aurelius  Antoninus   (Elagabalus)   (British 

Museum)  ......  60 

Coin    of   Macrinus   recording   Victoria   Parthica,    a.d.    218, 

(From  a  woodcut)         .  .  .  .  .60 

Coin    of    Diadumenianus     as     Emperor,    A.D.    218    (British 

Museum)  ......  60 

Coin  of  A.D.  219  commemorating  the  arrival  of  Elagabalus 

in  Rome  (British  Museum)       .  .  .  .110 

Liberalitas   II.      Coin  struck  in  A.D.  219  for  the  Emperor's 

marriage  with  Julia  Cornelia  Paula.      (From   the  collec- 
tion of  Sir  James  S.  Hay,  K.C.M.G.)    .  .110 
Coin  struck  in  .\.T>.  219  concerning  the  grain  supply  (British 

Museum)         .  .  .  .  .        i  lo 

Coin    struck   in   A.D.    219   to   commemorate   the   Emperor's 

recovery  (British  Museum)         .  .  .  .110 

Thyatira  Coin  of  Elagabalus  (British  Museum)  .142 

Coin  struck  to  commemorate  Alexianus'  adoption,  A.D.  221 

(British  Museum)  .  .  .  .  .142 

Coin  struck  to  commemorate  Alexander  as  Pont.  Max.,  A.D. 

221  (British  Museum)  ....        142 

Jovi  Ultiori.     The  Eliogabalium  as  reconsecrated  to  Jupiter, 

A.D.  224.      (From  a  woodcut)  .  .174 



Facing  page 
Coin  struck  to  commemorate  the  Procession  of  Elagabal,  a.d. 

22  1  (British  Museum)  .  .  .  .174 

Coin  of  A.D.  221   representing  the  Eliogabalium.     (From  a 

photogravure)  .  .  .  .  .174 

Coin  of  A.D.  220,  misread  by  Cohen  as  T.P.  Ill  Cos.  IIII 

(British  Museum)  .  .  .  .  .196 

Coin  of  A.D.  221,  misread  by  Cohen  as  T.P.  IIII    Cos.    IIII 

(British  Museum)  .  .  .  .  .196 

Coin  of  A.D.  222  (British  Museum)  .  .  .        196 

Coin  of  Julia  Cornelia  Paula  Augusta  (British  Museum)  .  216 
Coin  of  Julia  Cornelia  Paula  Augusta,  a.d.  220-21  (British 

Museum)  .  .  .  .  .  .216 

Coin  of  Julia  Aquilia  Severa  Augusta,  A.D.  220-21    (British 

Museum)  .  .  .  .  .  .216 

Coin    of    Annia     Faustina    Augusta,    a.d.    221-22    (British 

Museum)  .  .  .  .  .  .216 

Coin  of  Julia  Aquilia  Severa  Augusta,  a.d.  221-22  (British 

Museum)  .  .  .  .  .216 


The  Emperor  who  is  studied  in  this  volume  has 
commonly  been  treated  as  if  his  reign  had  no  signi- 
iicance,  unless  it  were  to  show  to  what  deep  places 
the  Roman  Empire  had  sunk  when  such  a  monster 
of  lubricity  could  wield  the  supreme  power.  If  the 
chronicle  of  his  naughty  life  has  been  exploited  to 
illustrate  the  legend  that  the  pagan  society  of  the 
Empire  was  desperately  wicked  and  infamously 
corrupt,  he  has  not  been  taken  seriously  as  a  ruler. 
Yet  Elagabalus  appeared  under  too  ominous  a 
constellation  to  justify  us  in  dismissing  his  brief 
attempt  to  govern  the  world  as  unworthy  of  more 
than  a  superficial  description  and  a  facile  condemna- 
tion. His  reign  lasted  less  than  four  years  ;  but 
those  years  fell  in  a  period  which  was  critical  for 
the  future  of  European  civilisation,  and  he  was 
brought  up  in  a  circle  intensely  alive  to  the  reli- 
gious problems  which  were  then  moving  the  souls 
of  men.  Mr.  Hay  has  broken  new  ground,  and  he 
has  done  history  a  service,  in  making  Elagabalus  the 
subject  of  a  serious  and  systematic  study. 

The  third  century,  so  obscurely  lit  by  poor  and 
meagre  records,  saw  the  Empire  of  Rome  shaken 
to  its  foundations.     There  was  a  manifest  decline  in 



its  strength  and  efficiency,  marked  by  the  insolent 
domination    of   the    common    soldier,    and    luridly 
illustrated  by  the  statistical  facts  that  from  Septimius 
Severus    to    Diocletian    the    average    reign    of  an 
Emperor  was  about  three  years  and  that  there  were 
only  two   or  three  sovereigns   who  were   not    the 
victims  of  a  mutiny  or  a  conspiracy.      As  one  of 
the  efficacious  causes  of  this  decline  has  often  been 
suggested  (most  recently  by  M.  Bouche-Leclercq) 
the   detachment  of  men's   interest   from  the  public 
weal  by  the  attraction  and  influence  of  individual- 
istic oriental  religions,  which  did  not  aim  at  securing 
the  stability  of  the  state,  like  the  old  religions  of 
Rome    and    Greece,    but    undertook    to    save    the 
individual  and  ensure  his  happiness  in  a  life  beyond 
the    tomb.       It    is    undoubtedly    true    that    in    this 
period  religious  currents  were  stirring  society  to  its 
depths,  and   several   rival   worships   were   engaged 
in  a  competition  of  which  the  issue  was  decided  in 
the  following  century.      And  if  the  state  was  really 
weakened  by  a  cleavage  which  had  become  sensible 
between   the   private   spiritual   interests   of  the   in- 
dividual citizen  and  the  public  interests  of  society, 
if  its  cohesion  was  endangered  by  the  tendency  to 
place  the  former  interests  above  the  latter,  we  can 
understand   the   statesmanship    of   Constantine    the 
Great,  who,  by  closely  connecting    the   state   with 
one   of   those    individualistic    religions,    conciliated 
and  identified  the  two  interests.      I  do  not  suggest 
that    Constantine    formulated    the    problem    in    the 
general  terms  in  which  we  may  formulate  it  now ; 
he   was  pushed  to  his  far-reaching   decision    by    a 


variety  of  particular  social  facts,  which  involved  the 
general  problem,  while  they  forced  upon  him  a 
particular  solution.  But  the  problem  which  he 
solved  had  long  been  there,  and  a  hundred  years 
before  Constantine  established  Christianity,  another 
Emperor  had  attempted  to  solve  it.  That  Emperor 
was  Elagabalus. 

The  religious  currents  of  the  age  of  the  Severi 
did  not  escape  the  notice,  or  fail  to  engage  the 
interest,  of  the  Court.  Julia  Domna,  Julia  Mamaea, 
Alexander  Severus,  were  all  under  the  influence  of 
the  spirit  of  the  time.  These  were  the  days  in 
which  Julia  Domna  and  Philostratus  discovered  for 
the  world  a  new  saviour  in  the  person  of  Apollonius 
of  Tyana.  But  the  religious  zeal  of  Elagabalus 
was  more  passionate  than  the  intellectual  interest  of 
any  of  his  house.  He  conceived  a  universal 
religion  for  the  Empire,  and  his  abortive  attempt 
to  establish  it  is  examined  by  Mr.  Hay  with  a  full 
sense  of  its  significance  and  an  unprejudiced  desire 
to  understand  it. 

With  all  his  unashamed  enthusiasm,  Elagabalus 
was  not  the  man  to  establish  a  religion  ;  he  had  not 
the  qualities  of  a  Constantine  or  yet  of  a  Julian  ; 
and  his  enterprise  would  perhaps  have  met  with 
little  success  even  if  his  authority  had  not  been 
annulled  by  his  idiosyncrasies.  The  Invincible 
Sun,  if  he  was  to  be  worshipped  as  a  sun  ol  right- 
eousness, was  not  happily  recommended  by  the  acts 
of  his  Invincible  Priest.  I  have  said  "idiosyn- 
crasies"; should  I  not  have  said  "infamies".-*  But 
it  is  unprofitable  as  well  as  unscientific  simply   to 


brand  Elagabalus  as  an  abominable  wretch.      His 
life   is   a  document    in    which    there    is    something 
demanding  to  be  comprehended.      If  all  men  and 
women  are  really  bisexual,  this  Syrian  boy  was  of 
that  abnormal  type  in  which  the  recessive  is  inor- 
dinately strong  at  the  expense  of  the  dominant  sex ; 
he  was  a  remarkable  example  oi psychopathia  sexua- 
lis ;  but  in  his  age  there  were  no   Krafft-Ebings  to 
submit  his  case   to    scientific   observation.       From 
this    point    of   view,   which    Mr.    Hay   has    taken, 
Elagabalus  becomes  an  intelligible  morbid  human 
being.       And    the    young    man,    though  so   highly 
abnormal  and  spoiled  by  the  possession  of  supreme 
power    before    he    had    reached    maturity,    was    far 
from    being    repulsive.       A   salient   feature    of   his 
character   was    good  nature ;    he    appears  to  have 
wished   to  make  every  one  happy.      His  pleasures 
were    not    stained    by   the    cruelties    of  Nero.       It 
amused  him  to  shock  people,   but  he   was   always 
good-humoured.       He    is   said    to    have    genially 
inquired  of  some  grave  and  decorous  old  gentlemen 
who  were  his  guests  at  a  vintage  festival,  whether 
they  were  inclined  for  the  pleasures  of  Venus.     The 
anecdote,  if  not  true  to  fact,  seems  to  be  character- 
istic.      It   is   told   in   the   chronique   scandaleuse    of 
Lampridius,   one   of  the   writers   of  that  Augustan 
History  round  which  a  forest  of  critical  literature 
has  grown  up  in  recent  times.      The  outcome  of  all 
the  criticism  is  generally  to  the  discredit  of  these 
authors,    and    Mr.    Hay    has    the   merit   of  having 
strictly  applied  this  unfavourable  result  to  the  Life 
of  Elagabalus. 


But  though  the  religious  enterprise  of  this  eccen- 
tric Emperor  was  doomed  to  fail,  it  was  not  by  any 
means  the  wild  project  of  a  madman,  which  those 
who  judge  post  event iitn  —  after  the  triumph  of 
Christianity — or  who,  Hke  Domaszewski,  see  in  it 
merely  eiiie  Vergottlichung  der  Unzucht,  are  apt  to 
take  for  granted  that  it  was.  In  those  days,  it  was 
not  in  the  least  certain,  as  yet,  that  Christianity 
would  be  chosen  and  its  rivals  left ;  this  religion 
was  not,  as  its  apologists  would  have  us  believe,  the 
only  light  in  a  dark  world.  To  a  disinterested  mind 
it  would  appear  that  Mithra  or  I  sis  might  have 
become  the  divinity  of  western  civilisation.  They 
were  certainly  well  in  the  running.  We  may  guess 
what  circumstances  aided  the  worship  of  Christ  to 
rise  above  competing  cults,  but  for  inquirers,  like 
Mr.  Hay  and  myself,  who  hold  no  brief,  and  do  not 
accept  the  easy  axiom  that  what  happens  is  best, 
it  is  unproven  that  Christianity  was  decidedly  the 
best  alternative.  Perhaps  it  was.  Yet  we  may 
suspect  that,  if  the  religion  which  was  founded  by 
Paul  of  Tarsus  had,  "by  the  dispensation  of  Provi- 
dence," disappeared,  giving  place  to  one  of  those 
homogeneous  oriental  faiths  which  are  now  dead, 
we  should  be  to-day  very  much  where  we  are. 
However  this  may  be,  it  seems  that  in  the  third 
century  the  Christians  were  far  from  commending 
their  doctrine  to  the  rest  of  the  world  by  any  signal 
moral  superiority  in  their  own  conduct.  The  bad 
opinion  which  pagans  held  of  their  morals  in  the 
time  of  Tertullian  cannot  be  explained  as  a  mere 
wilful    prejudice,    and    Tertullian's    reply    that    the 

xxviii         LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS 

charge  is  only  true  of  some  but  not  of  all  nor  even 
of  the  greater  number  (Ad  natio7ies,  5)  is  a  signi- 
ficant admission  that,  taking  them  all  round,  the 
Christians  were  not  then  conspicuous  as  a  sect  of 
extraordinary  virtue.  Moreover,  there  was  nothing 
in  the  ethics  of  their  system  which  had  not  been 
independently  reached  by  the  reason  of  Greek  and 
Roman  teachers,  and  they  are  entitled  to  boast  that 
the  success  of  their  religion  depended  not  on  any 
superiority  in  its  moral  ideals  to  those  of  pagan 
enlightenment,  but  on  its  supernatural  foundations. 
Slander,  with  ecclesiastical  authority  behind  it, 
dies  so  hard,  that  I  may  take  leave  to  add  a  remark 
which  to  well-informed  students  of  antiquity  is 
now  a  platitude.  The  offensive  performances  of 
Elagabalus  prove  nothing  as  to  the  prevailing 
morality  of  his  time,  just  as  the  debauches  of  Nero 
prove  nothing  for  his.  To  judge  the  private  morals 
of  the  pagan  subjects  of  the  Empire  from  the  descrip- 
tions of  Suetonius  and  Lampridius  is  even  more 
absurd  than  it  would  be  to  portray  the  domestic 
life  of  Christian  England  from  the  reports  of  the 
Divorce  Court.  The  notion  that  the  poor  Greeks 
and  Romans  were  sunk  in  wickedness  and  vice 
is  a  calumnious  legend  which  has  been  assiduously 
propagated  in  the  interest  of  ecclesiastical  history, 
and  is  at  the  present  day  a  commonplace  of  pulpit 
learning.  If  pagans,  in  ignorance  or  malice,  slan- 
dered the  assemblies  and  love-feasts  of  the  early 
Christians,  it  will  be  allowed  that  Christian  divines 
of  later  ages  have,  by  their  fable  of  pagan  corruption, 
wreaked  a  more  than  ample  revenge. 


Among  readers  of  Gibbon,  the  very  name  of 
"  Heliogabalus  "  will  always  "  force  a  smile  from 
the  young  and  a  blush  from  the  fair."  But  it  may 
be  expected  that,  after  Mr.  Hay's  investigation,  it 
will  be  recognised  that  this  Emperor  made, according 
to  his  lights,  a  perfectly  sincere  attempt  to  benefit 
mankind,  which  must  be  judged  independently  of 
his  own  moral  or  physiological  perversities. 

J.   B.   BURY. 



The  Scope  of  this  Book 

The  age  of  the  Antonines  is  an  age  little  under- 
stood amongst  the  present  generation.  The  docu- 
ments relating  thereto  are  few  in  number,  and 
for  the  most  part  the  work  of  very  second-rate 
scandal -mongers.  Like  the  Senate  of  the  time, 
these  writers  had  so  far  lost  their  sense  of  personal 
responsibility  that  they  were  quite  willing  to  record 
anything  that  their  "God  and  Master"  ordered. 
The  pleasures  and  vices  of  the  age  were  lurid  and 
extravagant.  The  menace  of  official  Christianity, 
with  its  destruction  of  literature  and  philosophy, 
was  almost  at  the  gates  of  the  city.  All  which 
facts  serve  to  render  this  most  magnificent  period 
of  Roman  history  unreal  and  fantastic  to  men  of 
our  more  practical  and  rationalistic  age. 

The  reign  of  Elagabalus  is  not  a  record  of  great 
deeds.  It  shows  no  advance  in  science  or  in 
military  conquest.  Save  in  the  realm  of  juris- 
prudence, it  is  not  an  age  of  great  men,  because 

I  B 


these  are  born  in  the  struggles  of  nations.  It  is  not 
an  age  of  poverty  or  distress.  It  is  rather  a  record 
jof  enormous  wealth  and  excessive  prodigality, 
luxury  and  aestheticism,  carried  to  their  ultimate 
extreme,  and  sensuality  in  all  the  refinements  of  its 
Eastern  habit.  Such  were  the  forces  that  swayed 
the  minds  of  these  eager,  living  men,  made  idle  by 
force  of  circumstances. 

It  was  a  wonderful  and  a  beautiful  age,  full  of 
colour,  full  of  the  joy  of  living  ;  and  yet,  as  we  look 
back  upon  its  enervating  excitements,  who  can 
wonder  at  the  greatness  of  the  decline  which  followed 
the  triumph  of  so  much  magnificence  ?  Rome  was 
at  the  apex  of  her  power ;  the  Empire  was  consoli- 
dated ;  the  temple  of  Janus  was  closed ;  the  Pax 
Romana  reigned  supreme,  and  with  it  order  and 
government  in  the  remotest  corner  of  that  vast 
dominion.  What  mattered  the  extravagances  of  a 
foolish  boy  to  the  merchants  of  Lyons  or  to  the 
traders  of  Alexandria,  so  long  as  they  were  undis- 
turbed and  taxation  was  at  a  minimum  ?  What 
mattered  the  blatant  outburst  of  a  Semitic  mono- 
theism, when  men's  minds — amongst  the  super- 
stitious—  were  already  attuned  to  the  kindred 
mysteries  of  Mithra  and  the  spiritual  chicanery  of 
I  sis  ?  The  harm  had  been  done  both  to  reason  and 
to  ancient  belief  by  the  secret  dissemination  of 
other  superstitions,  whose  effete  neuroticism,  whose 
enervating  and  softening  influences  had  done 
almost  more  to  ruin  the  glorious  fighting  strength 
of  the  Empire  than  all  the  luxury  and  effeminacy  of 
the  bygone  world. 



It  was  a  pitiful  exhibition,  the  powers  of  ignor- 
ance and  mystery  undermining  the  strength  of 
knowledge  and  virility,  till  the  barbarians,  whom 
the  very  name  of  Rome  had  conquered  and  held 
entranced,  overthrew  a  greatness  which,  in  the 
age  of  reason,  the  world  had  found  irresistible.  It 
is  pitiful,  but  it  is  true,  and  the  record  of  merely  a 
part  will  be  found  in  the  Augustan  Histories. 

The  difficulties  presented  to  the  student  of  the 
Scriptores  Historiae  Augustae  are  manifold  and  ever 
increasing.  Not  the  least  of  them  lies  in  the  varia- 
tion of  standard  by  which  this  collection  has  been 
judged,  and  in  the  diametrically  opposing  theories 
which  eminent  scholars  have  drawn  from  the  same 

The  criticism  owes  its  origin  to  the  confusions 
which  are  bound  to  exist  in  any  series  of  lives 
covering  a  period  of  167  years  and  purporting  to 
be  the  work  of  several — though  none  of  them  con- 
temporary— writers. 

The  Biographies  which  have  survived  are  nomin- 
ally the  work  of  six  authors,  to  wit,  Aelius  Sparti- 
anus,  Julius  Capitolinus,  Vulcacius  Gallicanus,  Aelius 
Lampridius,  Trebellius  Pollio,  and  Flavius  Vopiscus. 
The  author  of  the  Life  of  Elagabalus  in  this  series 
is  Aelius  Lampridius,  of  whom  personally  nothing 
is  known.  Peter  ^  postulates  that  he  was  not  a 
plebeian,  as  he  wrote  at  Constantine's  bidding,  and 
presumably,  from  the  virulence  of  his  attacks,  with 
some  ulterior  object  in  view.  This  was  probably 
an  attack  on  the  Imperial  author  of  that  species  of 

'   Die  S.H.A.  Sechs  litterar-geschichtluhe  UnUrsuihiingeti,  Leipzig,  1892. 


Mithraic  worship  which  Constantine  desired  to 
extirpate,  as  the  most  formidable  opponent  of  his 
own  new  religion. 

Lampridius  dedicates  his  Life  of  Elagabalus  to 
this  Emperor,  which  at  once  shows  us  that  at  least 
lOO  years  had  passed  since  the  events  recorded 
had  taken  place,  and  calls  for  an  inquiry  into  the 
sources  of  Lampridius'  information.  The  text  as 
it  stands  to  -  day  is  at  times  incomprehensible, 
largely  through  the  efforts  of  scholars  of  the  Bonus 
Accursius  and  Casaubon  type,^  while  Dodwell  in 
1677  played  his  part  in  corrupting,  according  to  his 
lights,  what  must  always  have  been  a  document 
whose  need  of  further  mutilation  was  highly  un- 
necessary. The  first  attempt  at  modern  criticism 
of  the  texts  began  in  1838,  when  Becker^  of  Breslau 
endeavoured  to  reassign  the  various  lives  to  their 
respective  authors,  without  very  much  success.  In 
1842  Dirksen^  of  Leipzig  attempted  to  ascertain 
the  sources  employed  by  the  various  Scriptores, 
and  their  use  or  misuse  of  the  material  to  their 
hands.  He  founded  his  criticism  mainly  on  the 
recorded  speeches  and  messages  of  the  Emperors, 
which,  unfortunately  for  the  theories  then  put  for- 
ward, were  discovered  by  Czwalina,^  in  1870,  to  be 
largely  spurious. 

The  next  work  of  any  importance  was  done  by 
Richter^  and  Peter,"  when  the  former  tried  to  date 

^  See  Peter,  Hist.  Crit.  cap.  ii.  ;  Bernhardy,  Proemii  de  S.H.A. 

2  Observationtim  S.H.A. ,  Breslau,  1838. 

3  Andeutungen  zur  Textesh-itik,  1S42. 

*  Czwalina,    De  epistularum  auctorumque  quae    a   S.H.A.  proferuntur, 
Bonn,  1870.  °  "  Uber  die  S.H.A.,"  AVi««.  Mus.  vol.  vii. 

fi  Peter,  Hist.  Crit.  S.H.A.,  Leipzig,  i860. 



the  Scriptores  themselves  from  internal  evidence  ; 
the  latter  threw  light  on  the  time  when  the  actual 
lives  were  written,  and,  amongst  others,  assigns 
Lampridius'  Life  of  Elagabalus  to  a  period  in 
or  about  the  year  a.d.  324.  In  1865  the  same 
author^  placed  the  study  of  the  Scriptores  on  a 
firmer  basis  altogether,  by  introducing  the  system 
of  textual  criticism  as  applied  to  the  sources,  both 
Latin  and  Greek,  from  which  the  writers  had  drawn 
their  facts. 

Amongst  Latin  sources  the  chief  name  mentioned 
was  Marius  Maximus,  of  whose  works  nothing  now 
remains.  He  was  Consul  under  Alexander  Severus 
and  a  devoted  servant  to  that  Emperor,  at  whose 
direction  he  attempted  to  complete  Suetonius  -  by 
a  popular  and  scandal-mongering  edition  of  recent 
events.  Mueller,^  in  1870,  after  a  careful  investiga- 
tion of  all  the  references  to  this  author,  concluded 
that  his  work  was  the  compilation  of  a  volume 
styled  De  vitis  wipcratonim,  which  contained  the 
lives  of  Nerva,  Trajan,  Hadrian,  Antoninus  Pius, 
Marcus,  Commodus,  Pertinax,  Julianus,  Severus, 
Caracalla,  and  Elagabalus.  That  the  last  of  these 
lives  should  have  been  written  by  the  friend  and 
servant  of  Elagabalus'  murderers  is  in  itself  unfor- 
tunate, as  one  immediately  suspects  that  some 
attempt  will  be  made  to  justify  the  crime,  or  at  any 
rate  that  veiled  malignancy  rather  than  a  true 
historical  portrait  will  be  the  result.  It  is  easily 
discovered  from  the  shortest  perusal  of  the  wealth 

'   Vc\<ti,Jahresberichl,  1865-82,  "S.H..\."  -  Ihid. 

3  "  Der  Geschichtschreiber  Marius  M.-iximus,"  Untcrsuch.  vol.  iii.,  Leipzig, 


of  mere  abuse  which  it  contains  that  no  veil  was 

considered  either  necessary  or  expedient,  and  that 

if  Lampridius  drew  his  information  of  the  Emperor 

Elagabalus    from   Maximus,  as    a    sole  source,  his 

work    was,    historically    speaking,    as    worthless    a 

caricature  as  that  with  which  Maximus  had  bolstered 

up   Alexander's   government.      Mueller,    therefore, 

propounded  the  theory  that  though   Maximus  was 

the   main   Latin   source,   other  authors   were   used 

by  the  Scriptores  in  a  supplemental  way.      In  this 

theory  he  was  supported  by  Ruebel,   Dreinhoefer, 

and  Plew,^  who  cite,  amongst  other  names,  that  of 

Aelius    Junius   Cordus,  an    author  who    is    quoted 

with  considerable  frequency  throughout    the  lives. 

This  theory  of  one  main  Latin  source — Maximus — 

held  ground  until  quite  recently,  when  the  work  of 

Heer,  Schulz,  and  Kornemann,  as  we  shall  see,  put 

a  somewhat  different,  if  less  satisfactory,  complexion 

on   the   matter.      It   may  be  remarked,  in  passing, 

that  Niehues,-  in    1885,  attributes  the  earliest  life 

of  Macrinus  and  his  son  Diadumenianus — amongst 

other  Emperors  whose  period  does  not  concern  us 

in    this    present    inquiry — to    Cordus    rather   than 

Maximus,  which  may  account  for  a  certain  amount 

of  impartiality  about  Macrinus'  life,  there  being  no 

special  end  to  serve  either  way. 

The  Greek  sources  used  by  the  Scriptores  are 
more  easily  fixed,  for,  though  most  of  the  authors 
have  perished,  the  work  of  Herodian  is  preserved, 

'  Ruebel,  De  fontibus  quatnor  prioftim  S.H.A.,  Bonn,  1872;  Drein- 
hoefer, De  atictoribus  vitaruni  quae  feruntur  Spartiani,  etc.,  Halle,  1873; 
Plew,  Alarius  Maximus,  als  du-ekt  undindirekt  Quelle  der  S.H.A.,  1873. 

2  De  Aelio  Cordo  rerum  Augustarutn  scriptore  conivientatio,  M uenster,  1885. 


and  the  abbreviation  of  Cassius  Dio,  which  was 
made  by  XiphiHnus  of  Trebizond  for  ecclesiastical 
purposes,  is  still  readable.  It  is  perhaps  necessary 
to  state  Haupt's  ^  opinion  that  the  Scriptores  did  not 
actually  transcribe  the  Greek  sources,  and  that  these 
can  only  give  one  a  certain  idea  as  to  how  the  writers 
used  their  materials.  Unfortunately  for  the  reign 
in  question,  neither  of  these  two  authors  can  be 
considered  as  unprejudiced  authorities.  Indeed, 
circumstances  have  conspired  to  obscure  the  history 
of  Elagabalus  at  every  point.  Cassius  Dio  is  by 
unanimous  consent  the  best  historian  of  the  third 
century,  infinitely  superior  to  Maximus  as  a  man  of 
literary  ability  and  historical  insight ;  he  is  not 
highly  exciting,  and  has  an  annoying  habit  of 
mistaking  sententious  platitudes  for  speculative 
philosophy.  His  impartiality  is  certainly  very 
questionable,  and  his  obviously  superstitious  cre- 
dulity notable.  But  these  defects  are  easily  over- 
looked by  the  student,  because  his  work  does 
embody  a  vast  store  of  information  on  the  workings 
of  the  Imperial  system.  In  all  probability  he  was 
absent  from  Rome  during  the  reign  of  Elagabalus, 
since  he  tells  us  (79-7)  that  Macrinus  appointed 
him  Curator  of  Smyrna  and  Pergamum  in  the 
year  218,  from  which  posts  he  was  not  removed  by 
Elagabalus.-  When  next  he  appears  it  is  as  the 
friend  and  servant  of  Maesa,  at  the  beginning  of 
Alexander's  reign.  He  was  then — successively — 
twice  Consul,  Proconsul  of  Africa,  Governor  of 
Dalmatia  and   Pannonia  Superior,  and  presumably 

1   Haupt,  Philohipis,  xliv.  575.  -  Dio,  Ixxx.   i. 


died  under  Alexander  at  80  years  of  age,  as  we 
have  no  work  from  him  after  that  date.  As  servant 
of  the  dominant  faction,  Dio's  history  must  have 
been  compiled  to  support  Maesa's  action  in  causing 
the  murder  of  Elagabalus,  and  to  justify  the  suc- 
cession of  Alexander,  when  once  the  women  had 
'  cleared  the  headstrong  boy  and  his  mother  from 
their  path.  Dio  advances  his  information  as  that 
of  an  eye-witness,  and  as  such  it  was  presumably 
derived  from  the  same  source  as  that  of  Maximus — 
so  much  so,  that  Giambelli^  in  1881  tried  to  prove 
that  Dio's  main  source  for  his  history  was  Maximus 
throughout  and  none  other. 

The  other  Greek  contemporary  is  Herodian, 
the  facts  of  whose  life  are  by  no  means  certain. 
Kreutzer-  thinks  that  he  came  to  Rome  about  the 
beginning  of  the  third  century,  and  subsequently 
held  some  minor  administrative  posts  in  the  govern- 
ment. He  stands  on  a  different  plane  from  Dio, 
as  he  possessed  very  small  qualifications  as  a 
historian.  He  narrates,  it  is  true,  salient  features 
of  court  life  and  current  foreign  affairs,  though  he 
has  small  conception  of  their  bearing  and  less 
regard  for  their  chronology.  In  this  matter  it  is  only 
fair  to  remember  that  the  ignorant  emendations  of 
Bonus  Accursius  and  a  tribe  of  mediaeval  scholars 
may  account  for  much  that  now  looks  so  outrageous. 
As  regards  the  sources  from  which  Dio  and 
Herodian  took  their  facts,  much  has  been  written, 
though  the  attempts^  made  since  1881  to  show  that 

1  Gli  Scrittori  del  la  Stona  Augusta,  1881. 
-  De  Herodiano  rer.  Rom.  scriptore,  1S81. 
^  Giambelli  and  Plew,  opp.  citt. 


both  used  Maximus  are  at  best  poor  and  incon- 
clusive. Mueller^  in  1870  pointed  out  with  some 
considerable  weight  that  the  similarities  which  exist 
between  the  parallel  accounts  found  in  Herodian  and 
the  Scriptores  were  probably  due  to  the  fact  that 
both  had  used  Maximus,  This  line  of  argument 
was  developed  by  Giambelli  and  Plew-  on  the 
basis  of  a  supposition  that  Herodian  had  been 
worked  over  before  he  was  used  by  the  Scriptores, 
thus  endeavouring  to  account  for  the  discrepancies 
between  Herodian  and  Maximus,  and  supporting 
the  Maximus-as-root-base  theory  of  both  authors. 
Boehme^  in  1882  introduced  the  name  of  Dexippus 
as  the  probable  intermediate  writer,  and  pointed 
out  that  the  references  made  by  certain  Scriptores 
to  Herodian,  under  the  name  of  Arrianus,  are 
hard  to  understand  if  the  scriptor  had  the  correct 
name  before  him.  Certain  passages  can  how- 
ever be  shown  to  have  been  taken  direct  from 
Herodian,  on  account  of  which  Peter"*  entirely 
rejected  the  Dexippus  intermediary  theory  a  few 
years  later.  In  the  main,  however,  the  general 
authenticity  of  the  sources,  whether  Greek  or  Latin, 
was  accepted  up  to  the  year  1889,  though  one  or 
two  discoveries  had  been  made  which  weakened 
their  hold  and  prepared  the  way  for  the  general 

The   first  was   made   by  Czwalina^  of   Bonn   in 

'   op.  cit.  p.  82. 

2  Marius  Mojcimus  ah  direct  tindituiirckt  Quelle  der  S.II.A.^  Strass!)urg, 
1878.  ^   Bochme,  Dcxippi  fra^niettta,  1SS2,  pp.   I  Oil. 

*  Die  S.A.H.,  pp.  49,  102. 

*  De  epistularum  auctontnique  quae  a  S.H.A.  profcnnitur,  Bonn,  1S70. 


1870,  who  declared  that  the  documents  and  letters 
in  the  Life  of  Avidius  Cassius  were  spurious  ;  and 
in  1880  Klebs^  destroyed  the  authenticity  of  those 
at  the  end  of  Diadumenianus'  Life.  Things  were 
more  or  less  quiet  until  the  year  1889,  when 
Dessau  -  opened  his  attack  on  the  general  authen- 
ticity of  the  Scriptores'  work,  asserting  from  the 
strongest  internal  evidence,  such  as  their  mention 
of  persons  and  things — in  lives  dedicated  to  Con- 
stantine  as  Emperor — which  did  not  happen  till 
after  his  death,  that  the  lives  were  the  work  of 
a  forger  in  the  later  part  of  the  fourth  century ;  a 
man  who  had  been  stupid  enough  to  give  an 
appearance  of  antiquity  to  his  work  by  the  use  of 
names  and  dedications  borrowed  from  older  sources, 
but  not  smart  enough  to  avoid  the  inclusion  of 
glaring  anachronisms. 

Mommsen  ^  at  once  undertook  to  defend  the 
authenticity  of  the  collection,  asking  saliently  why 
a  forger  of  Theodosius'  time  should  undertake  to 
praise  the  extinct  dynasty  founded  by  Constantius. 
The  very  patchwork,  he  says,  is  enough  to  prove 
the  collection  no  forgery.  Again,  the  use  of  pre- 
Diocletian  geographical  names,  such  as  those 
given  to  the  legions,  all  date  from  a  period  prior 
to  Diocletian.  Mommsen  then  proceeds  to  his 
criticism,  in  the  course  of  which  he  divides  the  lives 
into  primary  and  secondary,  which  to  his  mind 
solved    the   problem,  and   on    this    basis   he  drew 

1    <<  Djg  'Vita'  des  Avidius  Cassius,"  Khein.  Mus.  vol.  xliii.,  1888. 
"^  Dessau,   "  Uber  Zeit  und   Personlichkeit  der  S.H.A.,"  Hei-vies,   xxiv. 
337-92,  1S99. 

3  "Die  S.H.A.,"  Hermes,  xxv.  228-92. 


entirely  different  conclusions  from  the  facts  which 
Dessau  had  adduced  as  proofs  of  forgery.  The 
progress  of  Mommsen's  study  forced  him  to 
admit  what  he  had  so  entirely  repudiated  at  first, 
that  the  lives  do  contain  hints  of  a  later  period, 
all  of  which,  he  asserts,  can  be  accounted  for  by 
the  manner  in  which  the  collection  took  form. 
Mommsen's  opinion,  as  finally  stated,  was  that 
about  A.D.  330  an  editor  collected  the  available 
material  and  then  filled  in  the  gaps  with  his  own 
work.  Again,  at  a  later  time  a  reviser  retouched 
this  whole  collection  and  added  the  evidence  of 
the  latest  period,  which  has  caused  all  the  trouble. 
By  him  also  the  work  resembling  Eutropius  and 
Victor  was  inserted.  It  is  not  the  clearest  of  state- 
ments, and  had  to  be  so  modified,  as  it  proceeded, 
that  it  certainly  has  not  the  weight  attaching  to  it 
that  others  of  Mommsen's  works  carry. 

During  the  year  1890  two  works  appeared,  the 
first  by  Seeck,^  who  attempted  to  assist  Dessau, 
the  other  by  Klebs,"  who  had  accepted  a  modified 
Mommsen  estimate  of  the  authenticity  of  the 
Scriptores.  Seeck  began  by  pointing  out  that  a 
work  which  was  first  heard  of  in  the  latter  part  of 
the  fourth  ^  century  was  not  likely  to  arouse  sufficient 
interest  to  induce  any  one  to  revise  it  during  the 
earlier  part  of  that  century.  He  attacked  the  work 
attributed  to  Vopiscus,  PoUio,  and  Spartianus  in 
particular,  pointing  out,  in  the  case  of  Vopiscus, 
that   had   he  written  under   Constantine  he  would 

'   "  Die  Entstehungszeit  der  S.H.A."  Neue  Jahrhuch  Phil.  vol.  cxli. 
-   "  Die  Sammlung  der  S.H.A.,"  Rhdn.  Mus.  vol.  xlv. 
^  Seeck,  op.  cit. 

12  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

not  have  put  him  second  in  the  dedication/ 
or,  if  Pollio  had  written  in  the  third  century, 
when  the  title  Mater  Castrorum  was  commonly 
given  to  the  Empresses,  he  would  never  have 
spoken  of  it  as  a  speciality  in  Victoria's  case.^  If 
Spartian  wrote  under  Diocletian,  it  is  obvious  that 
he  must  have  had  a  prevision  of  that  Emperor's 
sudden  change  of  plan  as  to  the  succession.  Klebs  ^ 
in  the  same  year  further  modified  Mommsen's 
position,  and  explained  the  similarities  to  Victor 
and  Eutropius  as  due  to  the  use  of  the  same 
sources  by  these  authors  and  by  the  Scriptores,  and 
rejected  the  idea  of  a  revision  by  a  late  hand  on 
the  ground  that  no  one  would  be  so  foolish  as  to 
imitate  the  style  of  the  original  writers  for  the  sake 
of  inserting  nonsense  ;  certainly  not  the  most  con- 
vincing of  the  arguments  which  might  have  been 
used  by  a  man  who  presumably  had  at  least  heard 
the  history  of  the  Gospel  additions.  A  later  article 
(1892)*  was  more  conclusive,  as  here  he  attempted 
to  prove  that  no  one  forger  could  have  adopted 
the  variety  of  attitude  towards  both  the  Senate  and 
Christianity  which  we  find  expressed  in  the  various 
sections  of  the  "  lives,"  while  the  presence  of 
geographical  names  and  official  titles,  lost  before 
the  beginning  of  the  fourth  century,  point  to  earlier 
authenticity,  not  later  forgery. 

Woelffiin  ^    in    1891     supported    Mommsen    on 

^    Cariniis,  xviii.  3. 
-  T.  Pollio,  Trig.  Tyr.  v.  3,  etc. 

•^  Klebs,  "  Die  Satnmlung  der  S.H.A.,"  Rhein.  Mus.,  vol.  xlv. ,  1890. 
*  Ibid.  vol.  xlvii. 

"  "  Die  S.H.A.,"  Sitzutigsber.  der philos.-philol.  A'/asse  der  Bayer.  Akad., 


textual  grounds.  He  traces  the  differences  of  style 
to  the  fact  that  certain  authors  had  used  Suetonius, 
others  Maximus,  while  others  again  had  trusted  to 
their  own  retentive  memories,  not  altogether  a  safe 
historical  criterion.  He  states  that  the  traces  of 
similarity  running  through  the  works  are  due 
certainly  to  a  reviser,  but  that  the  reviser  was 
Vopiscus,^  which  either  puts  Vopiscus  at  a  much 
later  date  than  had  ever  been  done  before,  or  resigns 
the  idea  of  a  late  reviser  in  the  Mommsen  sense. 

Dessau"  in  1892  replied  with  a  scathing  attack 
on  this  same  Vopiscus,  from  the  point  of  view  of 
his  age  and  the  impossibility  of  his  having  seen  and 
heard  all  he  claims  to  have  done.  Seeck^  in  1894 
published  a  second  article  supporting  Dessau  with 
six  points  culled  from  titles  and  names  not  known 
till  after  the  reputed  dates  of  the  Scriptores.  He 
now  considers  that  plurality  of  authors,  or  forgers, 
as  the  case  may  be,  is  certain,  and  that  they  wrote, 
or  forged,  as  Diocletian  and  Constantine  gave  com- 
mand, using  for  their  work  many  sources,  including 
the  Imperial  Chronicle.  But  it  is  an  inconclusive 

In  1899  an  American,  Dr.  Drake*  of  Michigan, 
published  some  studies  in  detail  on  the  life  of 
Caracalla,  which  tended  to  establish  the  genuine- 
ness of  certain  portions  which  had  been  thought 
spurious.      Heer^  of  Leipzig  followed  in  1901  with  a 

1  op.  n't.  p.  479. 

-  "  Uber  die  S.II.A.,"  Ilennes,  vol.  xxvii.,  1S02. 

3   "  Zur  Echtheilsfr;i!:;e  der  S.M..\.,"  Klieiii.  Mus.  vol.  49. 

*   "  Studies  in  S.\\.\.,''  Anur.  Journ.  Phi!,  vol.  xx.,  Haltimore,  1899. 

^  Dcr  historisihc  Wert  der  Vit.i  Commodi. 

14  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

critical  survey  of  the  life  of  Commodus,  dividing  it 
into  two  parts,  the  first  chronological,  the  second 
biographical,  and  came  to  the  conclusion  that, 
though  the  chronological  part  was  trustworthy,  the 
biography  was  derived  from  very  poor  sources,  and 
was  only  in  part  contemporaneous.  Schulz  ^  in  1903 
applied  the  same  methods  to  the  lives  from  Com- 
modus to  Caracalla,  in  1904  to  the  life  of  Hadrian,^ 
and  in  1907  to  the  lives  of  the  house  of  Antonine,^ 
unfortunately  leaving  out  Elagabalus. 

Kornemann  *  in  1905  attempted  to  bring  together 
the  materials  of  the  lives  from  Hadrian  to  Alexander 
Severus,  much  on  the  lines  of  Schulz's  work.  He 
points  out  that  the  characteristic  note  was  to  be 
found  in  the  author's  interest  in  the  affairs  of  state, 
as  opposed  to  those  of  war,  and  how  Alexander 
Severus  has  been  raised  to  his  pinnacle  of  smug 
propriety  on  account  of  supposititious  favours  to 
the  senatorial  body,  while  extreme  animus  is 
betrayed  towards  the  warlike  Emperors  or  those 
who,  like  the  paternal  despots  of  the  Antonine 
House,  trusted  in  the  army  and  only  used  the 
"  slaves  in  togas "  for  ratifying  any  decree  that 
they  might  think  necessary,  a  mode  of  procedure 
in  government  to  which  that  body  had  long  been 
slavishly  subservient.  Kornemann  goes  on  to 
suggest  that  this  fondness  for  Alexander  presup- 
poses   the    writer's    work    having    been    published 

1  Beitrdge   zur   Kritik   der  Uberlieferung  der   Zeit   von    Commodus    ztt 
Caracalla,  1 903. 

2  Leben  des  Kaisers  Hadrian,  Leipzig. 
^  Kaiserhaus  d£r  Atitonin,  Leipzig. 

^   Kaiser  Hadrian  und  der  letzte  grosse  Historiker  von  Rom,  1 905. 


during  that  Caesar's  reign,  especially  as  no  trace 
is  found  of  his  work  later.  Kornemann  then 
invents  a  new  name  for  our  old  friend  Marius 
Maximus,  and  calls  him,  with  some  further  show  of 
scholarship,  one  Lollius  Urbicus,'  a  theory  which 
still  only  interests  Kornemann.  Heer-  in  1901 
had  given  him  a  certain  support,  however,  in  refus- 
ing to  believe  that  any  one  could  have  credited 
Maximus  with  any  part  in  the  chronological  side  of 
the  lives,  and  Schulz  in  his  Life  of  Hadrian  adopted 
the  same  view,  assigning  the  references  to  Maximus 
to  a  later  hand.  It  was  Peter  ^  who,  in  1905,  asked 
pertinently  why  Maximus  should  be  ousted  from 
the  authorship  of  the  chronological  source  in  favour 
of  an  unknown  contemporary,  though  he  admitted, 
with  some  freedom,  that  many  of  the  citations  from 
Maximus  stood  in  passages  of  questionable  value, 
or  seem  to  have  been  thrust  into  the  text. 

In  1899  Tropea^  of  Padua  published  a  treatise  on 
the  general  literature  of  the  S.H.A.,  in  which  he 
shows  that  the  aim  of  the  collection  was  political, 
and  in  the  interest  of  the  reigning  house  ;  in  con- 
sequence of  which  he  postulates  that  it  is  either 
falsified  in  fact,  or  wholly  fabricated  in  the  sense 
that  Czwalina  had  already  suggested.  Tropea  was 
followed  by  his  pupil  Pasciucco,^  who  examined  the 
life  of  Elagabalus  in  detail  in  1905.  The  result  of 
this  examination  was  to  show  that  Lampridius  had 
not  only  failed  to  examine  his  sources  of  informa- 
tion, but  had  exhibited  a  singular  lack  of  order  and 

'  Quoting  Diadunienianus,  ix.  2.  -  Op.  <:it.  pp.  145  ff- 

3  Berlin,  phil.   H'oc/iensihri/ten,  xxii.  p.  489,  xxv.  p.   147 1. 

*  Studi  siiffli  S.H.A.,  Messina,   1899.  ^  Elagabalo,  Fcltre,  1905. 

i6  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

proportion  in  his  imaginations.  Pasciucco  con- 
cluded with  the  illuminating  remark  that  Lampridius' 
sources  are  either  fabulous  or  of  little  value,  and 
answer  only  to  the  political  complexion  which  that 
writer  had  adopted. 

In  1904  Lecrivain  ^  published  an  admirable  con- 
servative presentation  of  the  available  material, 
which,  with  Schulz's  work  on  the  Imperial  House 
of  Antonine  in  1907,  leaves  the  textual  criticism  of 
the  sources  in  a  sufficiently  nebulous  condition  to 
please  the  majority,  at  any  rate  for  the  time  being. 

In  the  light  of  the  foregoing  criticism  and  the 
almost  universal  conclusion,  drawn  by  both  parties,  as 
to  the  obvious  want  of  impartiality  not  only  amongst 
the  sources  but  also  in  the  lives  themselves,  the 
scope  of  this  work  will  limit  itself  to  a  psychological 
criticism  of  the  life  of  Elagabalus,  as  contained  in 
the  Augustan  Histories.  These  documents,  as  will 
be  remembered  from  the  foregoing  summary,  are  a 
collection  of  heterogeneous  and  unenlightened  com- 
positions, to  which  Lampridius,  by  no  means  the 
ablest  contributor,  has  added  the  life  of  the  Syrian 
boy-emperor  Marcus  Aurelius  Antoninus.  Lamp- 
ridius exhibits  to  a  striking  degree  the  want  of 
method  and  order,  the  vain  repetitions  and  frequent 
contradictions,  the  lack  of  historical  insight  and 
love  of  petty  detail  which  characterise  the  whole 
collection.  This  he  shows  to  such  a  degree 
that  it  would  be  as  obviously  unfair  to  regard 
his  biographical  compilation  on  Elagabalus  as 
historical  fact,  as  the  more  than  questionable  "  ten 

1  Etudes  sur  hist.  Aug.,  1904,  Paris. 


denzschriften,"  which  were  his  sources  of  information; 
the  perusal  of  which  must  have  left  the  compiler 
with  a  distorted  view  of  events,  even  had  he  started 
with  a  fair  and  unprejudiced  mind.  This  certainly 
was  not  Lampridius'  outlook,  as  is  evinced  by  the 
obvious  animus  against  his  subject  portrayed  on 
every  page  both  in  his  unsupported  accusations 
and  in  his  puerile  fault-finding. 

In  all  probability  this  series  of  lives  was  never 
intended  to  be  more  than  a  succession  of  scandal- 
loving  biographies,  designed  to  take  the  place  of 
the  improper  little  novels  which  used  to  be  imported 
from  Greece,  but  whose  supply  was  falling  short 
with  the  decadence  of  Greek  literature. 

In  the  result,  the  biographies  of  the  Augustae 
Historiae  Scriptores  are  for  the  most  part  an 
inartistic  farrago  of  unordered  trivialities,  which 
modern  criticism  has  shown  to  be  late  in  date,  and 
with  little  or  no  individual  significance.  Their 
whole  value  depends  on  their  source,  or  sources, 
and  these  have  been  proved,  at  least  biographically 
speaking,  to  have  been  only  too  often  untrustworth) . 
The  Life  of  Elagabalus,  as  caricatured  by  the  par- 
ticular Scriptor,  or  forger,  is  not  even  an  attempt 
to  portray  historical  events  in  either  their  chrono- 
logical or  natural  order ;  it  makes  no  mention  of 
the  origin  of  the  Emperor,  his  claims  to  the  throne, 
his  fight  with  Macrinus,  nor  yet  of  the  facts  of  his 
subsequent  government.  It  is  merely  one  vast 
stream  of  personal  abuse  and  ordures,  directed  against 
the  memory  of  the  great  exponent  of  that  mono- 
theism which  was  the  chief  danger  to  Constantine's 


i8  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

theories  in  a  similar  direction  ;  while  Lampridius' 
sources  are  vitiated  by  the  fact  that  they  are 
Imperial  attempts  to  blacken  the  memory  of  a 
murdered  Emperor,  whose  popularity  with  the  masses 
made  his  murderer's  position  insecure  on  the  throne 
of  the  world. 

It  may  not  be  altogether  fair  to  charge  the  young 
Alexander  personally  with  the  murder  of  Elagabalus, 
and  even  if  one  does,  it  is  only  right  to  remember  that 
he  claimed  a  certain  justification  for  the  deed.^  Alex- 
ander affirmed  that  he  had  himself  been  in  danger 
of  death  at  his  cousin's  hand  on  more  than  one 
occasion.  Undoubtedly,  the  true  instigators  of  the 
murder  were  Mamaea,  Alexander's  mother,  and 
Maesa,  the  common  grandmother  of  the  cousins. 
Both  of  these  women  saw  power  and  authority 
passing  from  their  hands,  and  could  ill  brook  a 
second  place  in  the  direction  of  the  government. 
By  their  machinations,  bribery,  and  corruption,  they 
had  endeavoured  already  three  times  to  suborn  the 
Praetorian  Guard.  But  the  effort  had  failed. 
Sufficient  men  had  always  been  wanting  for  the  pro- 
ject, and  only  an  unlucky  chance  threw  the  Emperor 
into  the  hands  of  those  few  on  the  day  of  his  death. 
Alexander's  complicity  in  this  crime  might  have 
been  overlooked,  on  account  of  his  youth,  had  not 
his  strenuous  efforts  to  justify  the  deed  called  atten- 
tion to  his  attitude,  not  of  regret,  but  of  exultation 
in  the  crime.  This  attitude  is  most  clearly  seen 
in  the  scandalous  literary  productions  which  alone 
disgrace  the  name  of  Elagabalus,  all  issued  from 

1    Vide  cap.  vi.   Viia  Alex.  Sev. 


the  pens  of  Cassius  Dio,  Herodian,  and  Maximus, 
— or  Lollius  Urbicus, — all  three  servants  and  bedes- 
men of  Alexander  and  his  female  relatives. 

Surely  if  it  had  been  possible  to  give  proof  of 
cruelty,  tyranny,  bloodthirstiness,  deceit,  or  guile, 
the  record  of  these  deeds  would  have  filled  the 
pages  of  the  paid  traducers ;  but  contemporaries, 
who  loved  Elagabalus  too  well  for  his  generosity, 
charm,  and  beauty,  would  know  better.  The  only 
course  open  to  the  writers,  therefore,  was  to  attack 
personal  habits  of  which  the  outside  world  knew 
little  and  cared  less,  because  they  were  habits  that 
affected  no  one  save  the  boy's  familiars,  who  were 
perfectly  free  to  depart  if  they  objected  to  his 
manners  or  conversation. 

As  regards  the  later  compilers  of  Imperial 
histories,  mention  must  be  made  of  Zosimus  and 
Zonaras,  the  twelfth-century  editors  of  Cassius 
Dio,  who,  however,  add  little  to  our  knowledge. 
They  are  of  a  certain  value  because  they  omit  many 
of  the  scandals  before  produced,  while  the  same  may 
be  said  for  Aurelius  Victor  and  the  Brcviaritwi  of 

The  Church  historians  make  little  mention  of 
the  period  ;  they  were  undisturbed  by  persecutions, 
and  had  no  emperor  or  praefect  to  abuse.  They 
were,  in  fact,  so  busy  inventing  the  difficulty  of  the 
diphthong  and  developing  Pauline  theories  on  the 
doctrine  and  position  of  Christ,  that  they  had  but 
little  time  for  the  real  facts  of  life  and  progress  around 
them.  Origen  is  a  slight  exception,  but  then  his 
pride  had  been  flattered  by  a  summons  to  Court, 

20  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

where,  Eusebius  tells  us,  he  discussed  astronomical 
theology  with  the  now  visionary  Julia  Mamaea — 
who  seems  to  have  aped  her  aunt,  Julia  Pia,  in 
these  miatters.  Origen's  pride  was  further  flattered 
by  the  dignity  of  a  Praetorian  escort  on  the  journey 
to  Antioch — he  does  not  mention  the  return  voyage 
— which  was  certainly  a  most  astonishing  honour, 
for  which  one  would  like  to  have  other  than  sacer- 
dotal confirmation. 

Further  literary  authorities,  such  as  Sextus 
Rufus,  Orosius,  John  of  Antioch,  and  Jordanis,  though 
inferior  in  weight,  have  obviously  got  some  of  their 
information  from  sources  other  than  those  open  to 
the  Scriptores,  and  their  statements  may  be  accepted 
with  reserve,  unless  they  can  be  shown  to  be 
irrational  and  contrary  to  known  facts. 

When  all  is  gathered  in,  the  sum  total  of  the 
recorded  history,  as  Mr.  Cotter  Morison  ^  says,  is 
meagre  to  a  degree.  The  investigation  of  the 
various  isolated  records  in  the  light  of  what  is 
known  of  the  movements  and  tendencies  of  the  age 
— combined  with  the  psychology  of  the  boy's  char- 
acter— is  and  must  be  the  key  to  much  that  at  first 
sight  seems  contradictory  and  obscure  in  the  scandals 
reported — none  of  which,  as  Niebuhr  has  said,  are 
capable  of  historical  treatment  with  anything  like  an 
assurance  of  accuracy.  In  this  part  of  the  biography 
Lampridius  himself  is  of  considerable  use.  In  the 
course  of  his  vituperation  he  is  continually  letting 
fall  allusions  and  observations  revealing  a  character, 
instincts,  and  religion  which  he  is  quite  incapable 

1  Life  of  Gibbon. 


of  comprehending,  and  can  only  malign  with  a 
vitriolic  vehemence  worthy  of  a  better  cause.  His 
very  vehemence  is  fortunate,  since  it  has  left  the 
way  open  for  psychology  and  science  to  proclaim 
the  abuse,  what  we  now  know  it  to  be,  both  malicious 
and  untruthful. 

The  evidences  from  the  jurisprudence  of  the 
reign  are  certainly  unsatisfactory.  Later  codifica- 
tions have  left  us  with  but  few  dated  laws  of  a  reign 
that  stands  in  the  golden  age  of  Roman  juris- 
prudence. Ulpian,  Papinian,  and  Paul  were  not 
men  to  allow  a  break  in  the  order  of  legal  succes- 
sion, and  though  Ulpian  was  presumably  banished 
in  connection  with  Alexander,  it  was  not  until  within 
a  few  months  of  Elagabalus'  death.  Sufficient 
remains  to  show  us  that  the  Empire  suffered  no 
break  in  the  perfect  autonomy  of  jurisprudence, 
justice,  and  government,  throughout  a  period  which 
Forquet  de  Dome  '  has  dignified  under  the  pseud- 
onym of  the  reign  of  military  anarchy. 

Cohen  and  Eckhel  are  of  great  importance  in 
fixing,  as  nearly  as  possible,  the  chronology  of  the 
period,  by  their  records  of  the  medals  and  coins  of 
the  reign.  The  same  may  be  said  of  the  inscrip- 
tions which  have  escaped  the  vandalism  of  the 
Emperor's  enemies.  Duruy,  in  his  great  history,  is 
unwilling  to  give  the  medals  much  biographical 
weight,  comparing  them  to  the  governmental 
journals  of  all  times,  which  give  only  the  account  of 
events  as  seen  through  official  spectacles,  and  on 
which  as  little  reliance   can    be   placed   as   on    the 

'   Les  Emperettrs  syrictts.  • 

22  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

published  bulletins  of  victories  :  witness  the  Parthian 
medal  of  Macrinus,  the  record  of  a  great  victory  for 
the  Roman  troops  over  Artabanus ;  the  real  fact 
being  a  colossal  defeat  followed  by  a  peace,  the 
latter  purchased  in  a  manner  disgraceful  to  both 
the  people  and  the  arms  of  Rome. 

Inscriptions  are  unfortunately  few  and  far  be- 
tween, owing  to  the  fury  with  which  Alexander  and 
his  relatives  pursued  Elagabalus'  memory.  Un- 
doubtedly it  was  no  new  thing  to  call  upon  the 
Senate  to  execrate  the  memory  of  a  murdered  rival. 
It  was,  in  fact,  one  of  that  body's  most  important 
functions  during  the  period  under  discussion. 
Rarely  has  the  work  been  done  so  thoroughly  and 
effectively,  which  says  something  for  the  zeal  of 
Alexander  and  the  money  he  spent  in  extirpating 
all  reference  to  the  memory  of  Elagabalus. 

The  works  of  Valsecchius  ^  and  Turre,^  amongst 
seventeenth-century  scholars,  are  illuminating  on 
the  subject  of  the  length  of  Elagabalus'  reign. 
Tristran's  ^  attitude  shows  the  slavishness  of  tradi- 
tion ;  certain  of  Saumaise's*  emendations  show  the 
same  tendency  despite  his  usual  impartiality ;  in 
fact,  all  have  accepted  the  tradition  of  wickedness 
without  the  least  question  as  to  its  fons  et  origo. 
This  work  proposes  to  take  the  texts  as  they  exist, 
and  endeavour  from  their  unwitting  statements  of 
the  boy's  psychology  to  convict  them  of  untruth. 
From  their  unsupported  charges  of  secret  crimes,  to 
show  that  real  crimes  were  largely  non-existent,  and 

1  De  M.A.A.E.  trib.  pot.,  Florence,  171 1.  -  Bishop  of  Adria. 

^  Tristran  Sieur  de  St-Amant,  Commentaires  histoj-igties,  Paris,  1635. 
*  C.  Saumaise,  S.H.A.  vi.,  Notae  et  ernendationes,  Paris,  1620. 


to  throw  the  burden  of  all  the  ordures  which  have 
covered  this  Emperor's  name  on  to  the  shoulders  of 
his  relations  and  murderers,  to  whom  alone  it  was  a 
vital  object  to  destroy  his  fair  renown  before  a  world 
which  loved  him.  That  his  world  did  love  him,  de- 
spite all,  there  are  manifold  traces.  The  prodigal 
Emperors  always  were  adored  ;  so  were  their  suc- 
cessors, the  wicked  popes,  Man  was  too  near  to 
nature  to  be  aware  of  shame,  and  infantile  enough 
to  like  to  be  surprised.  That  was  Elagabalus' 
scheme  ;  he  amused  his  people  and  surprised  them 
at  the  same  time. 

The  whole  spirit  of  tolerance  of  the  unusual 
makes  it  difficult  for  us  to  picture  Rome.  Modern 
ink  has  acquired  Nero's  blush  ;  yet,  however  sensi- 
tive a  writer  may  be,  once  Roman  history  is  before 
him  although  he  may  violate  it,  may  even  give 
it  a  child,  he  never  can  make  it  immaculate.  He 
may  skip,  indeed ;  and  it  is  because  he  has 
skipped  so  often  that  you  may  fancy  Augustus  was 
immaculate.  The  rain  of  fire  which  fell  on  the 
cities  that  mirrored  their  towers  in  the  Bitter  Sea 
might  just  as  well  have  fallen  on  him,  on  Virgil,  on 
Caligula.  Nero,  Otho,  Vitellius,  Titus,  or  Domitian  ' 
why,  then,  condemn  Elagabalus  alone  unheard,  save 
for  the  fact  that  his  relations  hated  him,  and  as 
(dv  as  we  can  see,  hated  him  without  a  cause,  or 
perhaps  because  he  was  growing  too  strong,  and  his 
unfortunate  disease  gave  them  their  opportunity  to 
gain  that  power  after  which  the  women  were  striving 
like  grim  death  ? 

'    /  V(jV  Suetonius,  Lives  oj  the  Emperors. 




Great  houses,  says  a  historian,  win  and  lose  un- 
dvine;  fame  in  less  than  a  centurv  :  thev  shoot,  bud. 
bloom,  bear  fruit ;  from  obscurity  they  rise  to 
dominate  their  age.  indelibly  to  write  their  names 
in  history,  and  after  a  hundred  years  give  place  to 
others,  who  in  turn  take  the  stage,  while  they 
descend  into  the  crowd  and  live  on  insignificant, 
retired,  unknown.  This  is  true,  in  some  periods, 
but  not  of  the  Imperial  houses  of  Rome.  Their 
flight  across  the  stage  was  meteoric  in  its  rapidity. 
A  generation  saw  the  rise  and  total  extinction  of 
many  of  those  families  who  aspired  to  the  Roman 
Purple,  particularly  the  revived  house  of  Antonine. 
On  the  borders  of  the  Orontes,  in  that  part  of 
Syria  which  is  known  as  Phoenicia,  lies  a  small, 
disagreeable,  and  melancholy-looking  town,  which 
to-day  bears  the  name  of  Homs,  or  Hems.  It  is  a 
construction  of  yellow  and  black  stones  mixed  with 
mud  and  broken  straw,  and  is  the  rendezvous  of 
Curds,  Bedouins,  and  Turkomans,  a  straggling 
village,  where  dirt,  squalor,  and  miser}-  proclaim  the 


CH.  II       FAMILY  OF  THE   EMPEROR  25 

absence  of  trade,  roads,  or  contact  with  an  outside 
world.  A  short  distance  away  are  the  ruins  of  an 
ancient  castle,  built  by  the  Crusaders  to  dominate 
the  route  to  Antioch.  Here  alone  is  there  a  trace 
of  fruitfulness,  a  sort  of  oasis  of  green  gardens,  ex- 
tending along  the  river-bank  towards  what  was  once 
the  graceful  and  beautiful  capital  of  the  Elagabal 
monarchy,  the  famous  city  of  Emesa — celebrated 
under  the  independent  High-Priest  Kings  of  the 
family  of  Sohemais  for  the  splendour  of  its  palaces 
and  the  magnificence  of  its  temple,  and  because  it 
was  the  headquarters  of  the  worship  of  the  God  of 
Gods,  Elah-Gebal,  or  Baal,  which  is  the  name  more 
familiar  to  Christian  ears.  For  us  the  chief  interest 
in  this  wretched  village  lies  in  the  fact  that  it  is  the 
home  of  that  race  of  Syrian  Emperors  who  ruled 
Rome  during  the  period  of  her  greatest  renown  and 
prosperity — a  period  when  the  splendour  of  the 
Purple  reached  its  apogee.  Rome  had  been  watch- 
ing a  crescendo  that  had  mounted  with  the  ages  ;  it 
culminated  in  the  revived  Antonine  house  ;  but  the 
tension  had  been  too  great,  something  snapped,  and 
there  was  nothing  left.  So  it  had  been  with  Emesa  ; 
her  splendours  endured  sorrowfully  until  the  twelfth 
century,  and  then  were  engulfed,  as  her  house  had 
long  since  been,  in  a  great  earthquake  which 
devastated  that  part  of  Syria,  along  with  lesser- 
known  parts  of  the  earth's  surface. 

Little  is  known  of  the  earlv  historv  of  the 
hereditary  High- Priest  Kings  of  Emesa.  Strabo 
tells  us  that,  like  the  neighbouring  sovereigns  of 
Jerusalem,    their    origin   was    sacerdotal,    to  which 

26  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

functions  they  had  attached  the  title  and  jurisdiction 
of  secular  rulers  on  the  breaking-up  of  the  Seleucid 

The  most  famous  princes  of  the  Emesan  dynasty 
of  High-Priest  Kings  were  Samsigeramus  and  his 
son  lamblichus,  the  friend  of  Cicero.  In  the  war 
between  Octavius  and  Antony'this  prince  found  he 
had  taken  up  arms  on  the  wrong  side,  and  was  killed 
by  Antony  for  fear  of  treachery.  In  the  year  20  B.C. 
Augustus  re-established  the  kingdom  of  Emesa  in 
favour  of  the  son  of  lamblichus,  which  kingdom 
certainly  continued  until  the  time  of  Vespasian, 
according  to  Froelich,  and  probably  until  Antoninus 
Pius,  during  whose  reign  we  have  the  first  known 
Imperial  coins  of  Emesa  (Eckhel).  The  kingdom 
was  small,  and  the  wealth,  except  the  revenue 
which  came  as  religious  offerings,  insignificant — 
facts  which  undoubtedly  decided  the  rulers  of  the 
time  to  yield  gracefully  before  the  advancing  arms 
of  the  universal  Emperor,  who,  in  return,  left  the 
High-Priest  Kings  a  certain  amount  of  political  as 
well  as  their  inherent  religious  authority,  much  in 
the  same  way  that  he  left  the  family  of  Herod 
their  nominal  monarchy,  along  with  the  support  of 
a  similar  Babylonian  religion.  Certainly  the  fame 
of  the  temple  at  Emesa  and  the  oracle  of  Belos 
at  Apamea  was  widespread,  and  the  hereditary 
High  Priest  in  the  year  of  grace  179  was  an  astute 

In  that  first  year  of  the  reign  of  the  Emperor 
Commodus  there  was  appointed  to  the  command  of 
the  fourth  Scythian  legion  then  quartered  in  Syria, 

Coin  of  Antuiniiub  I'ius.  bUuel, 
(Hrilibh  Mubcum). 

at  l.iiiesa 

Coin  of  Marcus  Aurelius  Antoninus  (Caracalla) 
(British  Museum). 

/•'a^f  />iige  j6. 

n     THE   FAMILY  OF  THE  EMPEROR    27 

in  all  probability,  as  Peter  thinks,  at  Emesa  itself, 
an  African,  one  Septimius  Severus  by  name,  a  native 
of  Leptis  Magna  in  Tripoli,  born  in  the  year  146, 
and  therefore  about  the  age  of  thirty-three  years. 

Whether  or  not  he  was  a  widower  at  the  time  is 
uncertain.  He  had  previously  married  a  lady,  by 
name  Marcia,  but  as  no  children  by  her  are  known 
to  have  existed,  it  is  probable  that  she  was  either 
dead  or  repudiated  by  that  year,  added  to  which 
his  precocious  inquiries  as  to  the  marriageable 
young  women  in  the  neighbourhood  presuppose 
that  the  general  was  either  free  or  at  least  travelling 
01  gargon. 

The  High  Priest  of  the  period  was — according 
to  two  references  in  the  Epitome  of  Aurelius  Victor 
— a  certain  Julius  Bassianus,  descended  in  hereditary 
line  from  the  afore-mentioned  lamblichus.  Certainly 
he  was  not  a  plebeian,  as  Dion  says,  somewhat 
sneeringly,  when  referring  to  his  daughter's  origin, 
unless,  of  course,  Dion  meant  in  point  of  comparison 
with  the  rank  to  which  she  eventually  attained. 

It  was  certainly  a  happy  chance  that  Bassianus 
possessed  not  only  a  wise  prophet,  but  also  a  super- 
stitious commander  in  the  army  of  occupation,  and 
was  astute  enough  to  work  both  for  the  miraculous 
profit  of  his  house  and  lineage.  Unfortunately  he 
had  no  daughter  old  enough  for  an  immediate 
marriage.  She  who  is  presumed  the  eldest, 
Domna  by  name,  was  at  the  time  only  nine  years  of 
age,  having  been  born  in  the  year  170,  whilst  her 
sister  Maesa  was  presumably  somewhat  younger. 

But    to  return    to   the  Oracle.      In    the  year  of 


grace  1 79,  when  Septimus  found  himself  in  a  peace- 
ful province,  en  garfon  and  very  much  admired,  he 
took  an  interest  in  the  marriageable  daughters  of 
important  persons,  like  most  young  men  of  ambition 
in  their  more  calculating  moments,  and — being  a 
religious-minded  man — he  determined  to  consult 
the  gods,  especially  the  famous  voice  which  spoke 
so  near  at  hand.  Here  he  learnt  that  to  the 
elder  daughter  of  Bassianus  was  reserved,  accord- 
ing to  her  horoscope,  the  power  of  making  the 
man  whom  she  should  wed  a  king.  It  was  an 
ambitious  height  to  which  Septimius  aspired,  and 
an  ambition  which  would  have  cost  him  his  life  had 
Commodus  got  bruit  of  the  transaction.  Never- 
theless, being  a  prudent  man,  and  at  the  same 
time  ambitious,  he  resolved  to  let  no  chance  slip. 
He  did  what  Bassianus  expected — demanded  the 
lady's  hand  and  obtained  the  reversion  thereof. 

At  what  date  the  marriage  took  place  is  by  no 
means  certain  ;  there  are  two  references  in  Dion 
which  are  mutually  exclusive.  The  first  says  that 
the  Empress  Faustine  (who,  by  the  way,  the 
same  Dion  says,  died  in  175)  herself  prepared  their 
marriage  bed  in  the  precincts  of  the  temple,  which 
sounds  a  highly  unsatisfactory  beginning  to  ordinary 
matrimony.  But  as  he  has  just  told  us  that  the 
lady  was  of  an  age  of  five  in  the  year  above 
mentioned,  it  is  highly  improbable  that  her  nuptial 
couch  would  be  prepared  by  any  one,  or  any- 
where, for  some  time  to  come,  especially  as  there 
is  no  indication  that  Septimius  had  heard  of  the 
lady   before    179,   when    he    consulted  the   Oracle. 

II      THE   FAMILY  OF  THE   EMPEROR    29 

Again,  Dion  assumes  that  Marcia  did  not  die  until 
Septimius  was  appointed  Governor  of  Lyonese 
Gaul  about  the  year  187,  so  that  her  husband 
could  only  have  been  playing  with  astrology,  wise 
prophets,  and  other  things  against  the  time  when 
the  obex  to  solid  matrimony  should  be  removed. 
Possibly  even  Dion  is  referring — when  he  drags  in 
the  Empress  Faustine — to  Septimius'  first  marriage, 
or,  as  has  been  suggested,  the  whole  thing  was  a 
dream  of  either  Septimius  or  Dion,  probably  both, 
as  both  were  much  addicted  to  such  proceedings. 
Considering  the  so-called  scandal  against  the  lady's 
character,  her  proclivities,  and  the  knowledge  that 
her  eldest  son  Bassianus  was  born  at  Lyons  on 
April  4,  188,  it  is  most  natural  to  conclude  that  the 
marriage  took  place  some  time  in  the  spring  of  the 
year  187,  though  the  pledges  may  have  been  given 
when  the  child  was  nine  years  old  or  thereabouts,  and 
the  actual  marriage  deferred  till  Julia's  seventeenth 
year,  Septimius  amusing  himself  in  the  interval, 
after  the  manner  of  soldiers.  It  must  be  admitted 
that,  as  the  record  of  his  scrapes  is  limited  to 
two,  he  was  more  discreet  than  the  majority  of  his 

His  choice  of  a  wife,  if  made  on  unusual  grounds, 
was  more  than  successful.  Few  Emperors  have 
had  more  renowned  ladies  or  more  helpful  spouses 
than  Julia  Domna  Pia,  the  daughter  of  Bassianus, 
proved  herself  to  Septimius.  It  was  fortunate  that 
she  had  more  than  a  horoscope  to  assist  her  in  her 
new  position.  Even  the  governorship  of  Lyonese 
Gaul  was    an    important   post,  and  there    she    had 

30  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

large  scope  for  the  use  of  her  wit,  learning,  beauty, 
and  wisdom,  in  addition  to  her  Syrophoenician 
adaptability  for  amorous  intrigues.  By  means  of 
which  combination  the  family  became  people  of 
renown  throughout  the  length  and  breadth  of 
Pertinax's  Empire,  a  circumstance  which  enabled 
them,  on  the  murder  of  that  Emperor,  to  assume 
the  role  of  avengers,  the  deliverers  of  Rome,  the 
saviours  of  the  Empire,  which  had  now  three  heads 
but  no  commander. 

It  was  Julia,  we  are  assured  by  Capitolinus,  who 
decided  her  husband  to  assume  the  Purple  ;  it  was 
Julia  who  hrst  amongst  Empresses  was  Domna,  or 
Mistress,  Mater  Castrorum,  Mater  Senatus,  Mater 
Patriae,  Mater  Totius  Populi  Romani.  Of  course 
she  had  the  sad  notoriety  of  being  mother  to 
Caracalla,  and  late  authors  {vide  Tertullian  ad 
Nationes)  have  reproached  her  with  many  indiscre- 
tions— have  even  accused  her  of  conspiring  against 
her  husband  ;  but  Dion,  who  is  by  no  means 
partial  to  her,  mentions  neither  accusation,  and  the 
absurdity  of  the  latter  throws  doubt,  at  least  on 
the  public  knowledge  of  the  former  story.  In  any 
case  her  elevated  mind,  her  four  children,  and  her 
rank,  even  when  combined  with  her  sun-warmed 
nature,  ought  to  have  protected  her  from  anything 
except  occasional  amusements,  of  which  she  might 
have  preferred  her  husband  ignorant.  Julia's  real 
fame  rests  on  the  basis  of  her  character  as  a 
mathematician,  an  astrologer,  and  a  wise  counsellor. 
The  fruit  of  her  learning  and  philosophy  has 
been    handed  down  to  all  time  by  her  friend  and 

n      THE  FAMILY  OF  THE  EMPEROR    31 

associate  Philostratus  in  the  dedication  to  her  of 
his  Life  of  Apollonius,  the  miracle-worker  of  Tyana, 
the  Thaumaturge  whose  life  and  miracles  are  sup- 
posed to  form  so  large  a  part  of  the  traditional  life 
of  Jesus  as  it  exists  to-day. 

In  the  palace  Julia  Domna  had  gathered  round 
her  a  circle  of  learned  men,  where  all  subjects  were 
discussed,  and  whence,  in  all  probability,  a  con- 
temporary derived  his  idea  of  the  Deipno  sophistae. 
It  was  a  circle  of  rhetoricians,  lawyers,  astrologers, 
physicians,  philosophers,  and  historians,  which  in- 
cluded men  such  as  Cassius  Dio,  Ulpian,  Papinian, 
Paul,  Galen,  and  Philostratus — one  and  all  names 
which  speak  volumes  for  the  gravity  of  the  lady  and 
the  perfection  of  her  taste.  If,  therefore,  any  truth 
is  to  be  attributed  to  the  account  of  her  frailties, 
the  worst  that  can  be  imagined  of  the  pious  Julia 
is,  that  like  the  Virgin  Queen  of  this  country,  she 
took  her  recreations  in  those  ways  which  nature 
and  temperament  prompted,  while  the  main  business 
of  her  life  was  social,  political,  and  philosophical. 
Many,  like  Bayle,  have  made  merry  over  the  carnal 
anecdotes,  though  surely  for  a  true  judgment  of  her 
character  the  preservation  of  a  single  conversation 
with  Philostratus  of  Lemnos  would  be  worth  the 
record  of  a  thousand  dull  intrigues — in  surmise — 
for  which  familiarity  has  bred  contempt. 

Besides  which,  Severus  lived  in  the  bosom  of 
his  family,  or  rather  of  his  wife's  family,  the  Bas- 
siani.  With  his  two  sons  and  two  daughters  there 
had  come  to  Rome  about  the  year  a.d.  193  the  family 
of  his  wife's  sister  Julia  Maesa,  a  lady  for  whom 

32  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

fate  had  provided  no  Imperial  horoscope,  and  who 
in  consequence  had  no  right  to  be  anything  like 
as  ambitious  as  her  sister  the  Empress.  Maesa 
was,  however,  equally  beautiful,  equally  clever, 
and  equally  determined  to  climb,  if  climbing  were 
possible.  To  her  mind  Rome  was  the  place  where 
fortunes  were  to  be  made  if  you  had  an  Imperial 
connection,  so  to  Rome  Maesa  came.  She  had 
married,  at  an  early  age,  the  Proconsul  Julius 
Avitus,  by  no  means  an  undistinguished  govern- 
ment servant.  The  fact  that  he  held  the  govern- 
ments of  Asia,  Mesopotamia,  and  Cyprus  suc- 
cessively, and  v^  Consul  in  the  year  209,  says 
something  for  the  trust  which  was  reposed  in  him. 
He  seems  to  have  been  resident  in  Rome  in  his 
own  mansion  on  the  Aesquiline  —  according  to 
Lanciani — from  the  year  193,  a  fact  which  pre- 
supposes that  he  was  already  a  man  of  wealth 
and  position,  who  considered  himself  justified — on 
account  of  his  relation  to  the  Imperial  home — in 
resigning  the  government  of  the  provinces,  though 
at  no  time  was  the  proconsulship  an  unprofitable 
possession,  even  for  the  most  upright.  Herodian 
testifies  most  fully  to  the  wealth  of  the  family,  lead- 
ing us  to  suppose  that  Maesa  knew  full  well  that 
"  poverty  is  no  recommendation  anywhere,"  and 
had  amassed  money  accordingly. 

At  theperiod  now  before  us  Maesa'spoliticalability 
seems  to  have  had  little  or  no  scope.  It  was  gold 
she  wanted  at  that  time,  and  gold  she  was  getting 
together  against  an  emergency.  This  emergency 
fate  provided   under  the   Emperor   Macrinus,  and 


she  was  thus  enabled  to  use  her  stores  of  gold  and 
statecraft  with  much  profit  both  under  Elagabalus 
and  in  the  early  years  of  Alexander's  reign.  She  was 
then  free,  and  showed  herself  in  her  true  colours, 
a  sort  of  Dowager- Empress  after  the  Chinese 
pattern,  greedy,  with  a  terrible  eagerness  for  power, 
authority,  and  a  command  such  as  Julia  with  more 
good  sense  had  never  thought  of  encompassing. 
It  was  a  longing  that  she  had  to  satisfy  at  the 
price  of  her  treasure,  her  popularity — if  ever  she  had 
any — even  at  the  price  of  her  own  children's  blood. 
Maesa's  family  consisted  of  two  daughters,  whose 
sons  were  both  to  become  renowned  Emperors, 
men  whose  names  live  by  their  very  eccen- 
tricities, though  their  deeds  are  but  far-off  fables 
meet  for  the  acrimonious  discussions  which  make 
historians  famous.  Of  the  two  daughters,  Soaemias, 
or  Symiamira,  the  elder,  was  less  of  the  politician,  had 
less  of  the  calculating,  self-possessed  individuality 
which  was  so  strong  in  both  her  mother  and  sister, 
who  were  both  women  with  the  true  courtesan 
instinct,  which  could  turn  their  very  amours  to 
substantial  account.  Soaemias  was  certainly  no 
ruler.  She  was  a  living,  passionate,  human  woman, 
full  of  the  joy  of  life,  generous  both  for  good 
and  evil,  courageous  too,  according  to  Herodian. 
By  common  consent,  she  was  voluptuous,  devoted 
to  those  who  loved  her,  willing  to  give  her  very 
life  for  that  of  her  well-loved  son.  A  woman  who 
was  bound  to  be  popular  with  men.  and  hated  by 
her  sisters  for  all  time,  both  on  account  of  her 
qualities  and  her  defects.      To  such   a  nature   the 


34  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

position  Lampridius  ascribes  in  the  state  would 
have  been  utterly  impossible.  Nor  is  this  borne 
out  anywhere  by  the  existing  inscriptions,  which 
always  make  Soaemias  take  a  place  second  to 
that  of  Maesa,  except  in  the  Senate  on  the  Quirinal, 
which  was  her  special  concern. 

Soaemias  married  some  time  before  the  year 
204  Sextus  Varius  Marcellus.  He  was,  according 
to  Dion,  a  native  of  Apamea,  and  a  man  of  some 
considerable  prominence.  As  early  as  196  we 
hear  of  him  in  the  position  of  Procurator  Aquarum, 
and  his  advancement,  presumably  helped  by  his 
connection  with  royalty,  was  very  rapid.  Through 
the  usual  grades  of  procuratorships  he  reached  the 
rank  of  Praefect  in  early  life,  and  thence  the  height 
of  ambition,  the  Praetorian  class  of  the  Senatorial 
order.  At  the  time  of  his  death  he  was  about 
to  complete  his  term  of  office  as  Legatus  Legionis 
III.  Augustae,  Praeses  provinciae  Numidiae,  or  may 
just  have  vacated  that  position  ;  at  least  such  is  the 
reading  of  the  inscription  according  to  Domaszewski, 
who  puts  his  death  some  time  in  the  year  a.d.  217. 
The  young  couple  seem  to  have  had  an  estate  at 
Velletri,  a  city  some  twenty-five  miles  south  of  Rome  ; 
as  here  Varius  Marcellus'  funeral  inscription  was 
found  some  short  time  back.  Whether  or  not  her 
husband's  praefectorial  duties  left  Soaemias  much 
to  herself  can  be  judged  by  the  statement,  made 
by  all  authorities,  that  she  spent  the  greater  part 
of  her  time  with  her  aunt  at  Court,  which  she  could 
scarcely  have  done  had  her  husband  been  at 
Velletri.     There    is   a    question    raised  by   Eckhel 

n     THE  FAMILY  OF  THE  EMPEROR    35 

as  to  the  number  of  her   children  ;    he  cites   from 
a  Bilingue  Marmor,  which  contains  the  inscription 
— "  JuHa  Soaemias  Bassiana  cum  fi lis,''  but  as  this 
is    the   only   mention   of  any   children,   apart  from 
Bassianus    himself,    the    others    have    passed    into 
obscure  oblivion.      Probably  this  mention  is  respon- 
sible  for   more   than   one   of  the  many  scandalous 
stories  which  centre  round  her  name.     She  certainly 
had  one  son,  Varius  Avitus  Bassianus  (sometimes 
also  called  Lupus).     Whether  he  was  first,  second, 
or  last,  we  have  no  sort  of  information.     Various 
writers  give  the  boy  different  names  in  early  life  ; 
few  agree  even  as  to  the  year  of  his  birth.     Dion 
says  that  he  was  born  on  October  i,  204.      Hero- 
dian,   for   no   discoverable  reason,  puts   it  as  early 
as     201,    while    both    Ammianus    Marcellinus    and 
Julianus  imply  that  his  birthplace  was  Emesa,  which 
latter    fact    seems    most    improbable.       Bassianus' 
very  parentage  is   obscure,  on   account  of  the   re- 
putation which  his  mother  had  acquired  during  her 
residence  in  Rome.      Certainly  her  cousin  Caracalla 
admired  her,  but  he  admired  most  women  of  the  type, 
and  if  we  can  believe  any  of  the  scandals,  Soaemias 
was    in    no    way    averse    to    passing    her    time    in 
amorous  converse   with   her  very  vigorous  cousin, 
or     indeed    with    any    other    strong     and     healthy 
soldiers  who  thronged  the  imperial  ante-chambers. 
This   state   of  affairs   seems   to   have  been  one   of 
which   people   in    Rome   were   well   aware,  as   was 
testified  by  the  vestal  whom  Caracalla,  having  im- 
potently  failed  to  violate,  burned  alive,  protesting 
her  innocence  on   the  grounds  that  Soaemias  had 

36  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

put  it  beyond  the  power  of  Caracalla  to  violate  her 
when  he  tried. 

In  one  way  it  was  a  misfortune  for  her  son  that 
no  one  could  fix  exactly — perhaps  his  mother  least 
of  all — the  paternity  of  Bassianus,  though,  on  the 
other  hand,  this  very  uncertainty  had  its  peculiar 
uses  at  the  psychological  moment.     Certainly  the 
discovery  that  she  had  other  children,  whilst  Bas- 
sianus alone  comes  to  the  front,  lends  countenance 
to  the  official  story  that  her  attachment  to  Caracalla 
was  not  unfruitful,  while  the  name  Bassianus,  which 
her  son  bore,  was  the  name  by  which  Caracalla  was 
always  known  until  the  time  of  his  proclamation, 
and  even  afterwards.     At  any  rate  there  is  nothing 
unlikely  in  the  imperial  paternity  which  all  authors 
mention,  some  as  conjectural,  some  even  assuming 
as  a  fact,  with,  however,  very  little  chance  of  ascertain- 
ing the  arcana  of  the  circumstances.     There  is  and 
can  be,  at  any  rate  medically  speaking,  no  truth  in 
the  abominable  suggestion  of  Lampridius,  that  the 
boy  was  named  Varius  on  account  of  the  variety  of 
gentlemen   who  contributed   to   his  mise  en  scene, 
especially  when  Lampridius  knew,  if  he  knew  any- 
thing at  all,  that  the  lady's  husband  was  by  name 
Varius.    What,  therefore,  was  more  natural  than  that* 
the  lad  should  bear  the  family  name  along  with  the 
other  belonging  to  his  natural  father  the  Emperor 
Bassianus  } 

The  reputed  birthplace  is  certainly  a  mystery. 
Why  Soaemias  should  have  taken  the  long  and  tiring 
journey  to  Emesa,  when  she  could  have  enjoyed 
herself  so  much  better  in  Rome,  has   never  been 

n      THE  FAMILY  OF  THE   EMPEROR    37 

explained.  Even  though  the  birth  were  an  accident 
which  she  wished  to  conceal  from  her  husband, 
why  go  to  Emesa,  where  she  was  best  known  out- 
side Rome,  and  where  people  could  talk  just  as 
well  as  in  the  imperial  city?  Her  husband  may 
have  been  absent  on  military  or  civil  duty  for 
too  long  a  time  to  stop  people  talking  about  the 
interesting  event  (in  some  provinces  the  tenure  of 
office  was  five  years),  which  would  suggest  things 
best  left  undiscovered,  but  even  then  there  were 
many  such  accidents  happening  in  the  best-regulated 
families.  No  one  would  be  shocked,  her  family 
was  in  too  good  a  position  to  allow  any  such 
expression  of  feeling  ;  she  was  a  married  woman 
and  could  claim  the  protection  of  that  state  of  life 
at  Terracina,  or  Baiae,  or  any  other  seaside  resort, 
until  the  time  was  safely  over.  There  seems  no 
suggestion  possible  that  will  accord  with  Julianus' 
implication.  It  may  be  true,  though  we  can  see  no 
earthly  reason  for  the  journey,  and,  in  the  absence 
of  corroboration,  we  may  conclude  that  in  all  prob- 
ability it  is  merely  a  loose  way  of  saying  that 
the  family  of  a  man  belongs  to  a  certain  village 
or  island,  without  necessarily  implying  that  the 
person  in  question  was  himself  born  there.  It 
may  even  be  a  backhanded  way  of  disparaging  the 
birth  of  him  whose  memory  had  to  be  slighted, 
by  saying  that  he  was  a  mere  provincial  nobody, 
whilst  the  birth  of  his  murderer  and  successor  is 
vaunted  and  raised  to  great  splendour  by  circum- 
stantial untruth,  in  order  to  prove  him  fully  capax 

38  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

The  second  daughter  of  JuHa  Maesa  was  Julia 
Mamaea.  While  still  abroad  with  her  family,  she 
had  married  another  Syrian,  by  name  Gessianus  Mar- 
cianus,  a  native  of  Area.  Nothing  is  known  of  him 
except  from  Dion's  statement  that  he  had  filled,  more 
than  once,  the  office  of  Imperial  Procurator.  By  this 
marriage  Mamaea  incurred  the  capitis  dimimitio 
on  account  of  the  inferior  rank  of  her  husband, 
but  by  means  of  a  privilegium  from  Severus  and 
Caracalla  she  was  allowed  to  retain  her  own  Sena- 
torial rank.  Of  this  admirable  woman  none  of  the 
frailties  so  common  amongst  her  family  and  rela- 
tions are  reported.  She  lived  and  died  a  model  of 
unswerving  rectitude.  This  affectation  she  carried 
almost  to  the  Jesuit  extreme,  when  she  made  use 
of  her  reputation  and  wealth  to  obtain  the  murder 
of  the  nephew  of  whom  she  so  highly  dis- 
approved and  by  whose  murder  she  would  benefit 
so  materially.  There  is,  of  course,  the  story  of  one 
indiscretion  with  Caracalla,  by  means  of  which  she 
consented  to  gain  popularity  for  her  son.  She,  as 
well  as  her  sister,  claimed  the  distinction  of  having 
been  Caracalla's  mistress,  and  Alexianus,  as  well  as 
Bassianus,  was  claimed  as  the  result  of  that  cousin's 
too  amorous  embraces.  The  admission  was  doubt- 
less due  rather  to  a  hypocritical  affectation  of 
wickedness,  prompted  by  the  political  exigencies 
of  the  moment,  than  to  the  fact  that  her  cold  and 
stately  beauty  had  unbent  to  tempt  a  too  ardent 
cousin  by  the  offer  of  those  seductive  attractions 
which  he  could  get  so  easily  elsewhere.  Especially 
as  the  assumption  of  this  role  of  temptress  might 


cause  her  in  after-life  all  the  reproaches  of  a  mis- 
spent youth,  with  little  to  show  for  the  sacrifice. 
Perhaps  mention  ought  to  be  made  of  the  opinion 
of  Dexippus,  that  the  boys  Bassianus  and  Alexianus 
were  cousins-german  paternal,  which,  as  we  know 
from  theologians,  when  they  are  fitting  facts  to 
theory,  is  the  same  thing  as  brothers  by  the  same 
father.  Certainly  Mamaea's  beauty  is  remarkable. 
As  we  see  it  in  her  bust  at  the  Louvre,  she  is  a 
younger  edition  of  her  aunt  Julia,  perhaps  without 
the  humanity  and  gentleness  expressed  in  that  lady's 
portrait,  which  is  to  be  found  in  the  Rotondo  at  the 
Vatican,  but  there  is  a  real  resemblance  between 
the  two.  Both,  though  Syrian  by  race,  are  remark- 
ably Western  in  type,  whereas  the  features  of  Julia 
Soaemias — in  the  statue  representing  her  as  Venus 
Coelestis,  also  in  the  Vatican  museum  —  are  dis- 
tinctly of  a  more  Oriental  cast.  Soaemias'  form  is 
most  beautiful,  though  it  must  be  confessed  that  her 
head  and  arms  would  have  pleased  Rubens'  taste 
better  than  they  do  our  present  pre-Raphaelite 
ideas  of  attractiveness.  Soaemias'  history,  how- 
ever, leaves  no  doubt  in  our  minds  that  all  men 
considered  her  the  more  attractive  at  the  time ; 
and  certainly,  if  but  a  tittle  of  the  stories  concerning 
her  be  true,  she  must  have  been  as  fascinating  as 
the  goddess  in  whose  form  she  has  been  portrayed. 
We  have  now  before  us  the  main  personages 
in  the  political  revolution  of  the  year  a.d.  21S,  a 
revolution  which  displaced  the  Moor,  the  beloved 
of  the  Senate,  and  replaced  the  house  of  Severus, 
the  beloved  of  the  army,  upon  that  peak  whereon 

40  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

the  young  Emperors  of  old  Rome  balanced  them- 
selves— a  peak  with  a  precipice  on  either  side. 

First,  there  is  the  Empress  Julia  Domna  Pia, 
clever,  witty,  sagacious,  and  beautiful. 

Then  her  sister,  Julia  Maesa,  Sanctissima, — for 
so  her  religiosity  is  described — the  widow  of  Julius 
Avitus,  wealthy,  hard,  crafty,  and  domineering,  but 
a  woman  with  a  policy  and  limitless  determina- 
tion, as  her  later  history  shows.  Then  her  two 
daughters — 

(i)  Julia  Soaemias  Bassiana,  the  wife  of  Varius 
Marcellus,  beautiful,  voluptuous,  religious,  neurotic, 
the  mother  of  Elagabalus,  a  woman  with  few,  if  any, 
political  aspirations,  tendencies,  or  abilities. 

(2)  /tilia  Mamaea,  the  upright  (except  when 
other  things  paid  better),  classic,  cold,  calculating, 
philosophic,  mildly  interested  in  Christianity,  and 
devoted  to  the  interests  of  her  own  family. 

Finally,  the  two  successive  Emperors,  their  sons, 
Varius  Avitus  Bassianus,  the  impulsive,  affectionate, 
headstrong  child  of  about  thirteen  years,  with  all  his 
mother's  hereditary  sexuality,  neurotic  religion,  and 
love  of  life  ;  and  Alexianus,  a  child  of  approximately 
nine,  Mamaea's  son,  and  bearing  her  reputation,  of 
whom  more  at  a  later  time. 

Let  us  follow  in  outline  the  actions  and  move- 
ments of  this  family  from  the  death  of  the  Emperor 
Antoninus  Caracalla  to  the  inception  of  the  move- 
ment which  placed  his,  at  least  reputed,  son  in  his 

Without  doubt  the  family  had  lived  securely  and 
delicately  in  Rome  through  the  reigns  of  Septimius 

Medal  of  Julia  Domna  Pia,  Empress  (British  Museum). 

Coin  of  Julia  Maesa  Augusta  (British  Museum). 

Coin  of  Julia  Soaemias  Augusta  (British  Museum), 

Coin  uljuin  Maniaca  Augusta  (liritiili  Museum). 

Fitiefiitgr  40. 

11      THE  FAMILY  OF  THE   EMPEROR    41 

Severus  and  his  son,  growing  in  wisdom,  stature, 
and  prosperity,  and,  as  far  as  we  know,  in  favour 
with  God  and  man,  until  the  tragic  events  of  the 
year  2 1 7  made  it  appear  that  the  fortunes  of  the  family 
had  come  to  a  sudden  and  decided  collapse.  The 
circumstances  of  the  death  of  Caracalla  were  typical 
of  that  age  of  sovereignty.  As  a  general  rule  the 
knife  gave  what  a  dish  of  mushrooms  took  away. 
Caracalla's  orovernment  had  been  cruel  and  severe 
in  the  extreme,  but  he  was  adored  by  the  army,  with 
whom  he  lived  and  worked,  not  as  Emperor,  but  as 
comrade.  For  them  he  could  never  do  enough  in 
the  way  of  privileges,  for  them  the  treasury  was 
depleted,  and  cities  turned  into  cemeteries  that  they 
might  have  the  booty.  Fighting  was  as  natural  to 
him  as  to  a  tiger  cat  ;  and  fighting  he  died.  It  was 
for  the  pursuit  of  a  campaign  against  the  Parthians 
that  the  Emperor  and  Court  had  moved  to  Antioch 
in  Syria,  where  Julia,  his  mother,  was  acting  as 
Secretary  of  State,  while  the  Emperor  was  bounding 
like  a  panther  upon  the  various  cities  of  Mesopo- 
tamia. In  the  pursuit  of  her  duties,  it  happened 
that  there  came  into  her  hands  certain  letters 
warning  her  of  a  plot  against  her  son's  life. 

With  the  army  at  that  time  was  a  praefect,  Opilius 
Macrinus  by  name,  a  Moorish  lawyer  of  low  birth 
and  pedantic  habits.  He  had  been  procurator  to 
Plautianus,  the  so-called  traitor,  whom  both  Julia 
and  Caracalla  had  hated.  Now  Macrinus  had  been 
honoured  by  Severus  after  Plautianus'  murder,  and 
still  stood  high  in  the  imperial  favour — though  he 
was  treated  by  the  Emperor,  says  Dion,  as  a  sort  of 


buffoon.  Macrinus  had  dreamed  that  the  purple 
should  be  his,  and  was  supported  in  his  wish  by 
the  African  astrologer  Serapion,  who  was  obliging 
enough  to  prophesy  the  speedy  demise  of  Aurelius 
Antonine  in  Macrinus'  favour. 

Julia  immediately  sent  dispatches  containing 
the  account  of  what  was  going  forward  to  her  son, 
who,  as  usual,  was  absent  from  the  city.  When 
these  arrived  in  the  camp,  Caracalla  was  just 
mounting  his  chariot,  and  gave  orders  that  the 
mail  should  be  taken  first  to  Macrinus,  who  would 
sift  its  contents  and  only  bring  what  was  necessary 
to  the  Emperor.  Thus  did  Macrinus  learn  that 
his  treachery  was  discovered  and  a  death-sentence 
for  real  or  supposed  treason  imminent,  which  un- 
pleasant certainty  he  resolved  to  obviate  without 
further  delay.  In  a  very  few  days  he  had  discovered 
a  discontented  person  willing  to  do  his  work,  one 
Martialis,  a  centurion,  whose  brother,  according 
to  Herodian,  had  recently  been  executed  for  some 
military  offence,  or,  in  Dion's  version,  because  he 
was  angered  at  his  own  tardy  promotion.  These 
two  discussed  the  matter  and  resolved  on  the 
extermination  of  their  mutual  grievance,  Martialis 
to  do  the  deed. 

The  opportunity  came  on  the  8th  April  217, 
when  Caracalla  was  on  a  journey  to  visit  the  temple 
of  the  Moon  at  Charrae  in  Mesopotamia.  By  the 
way,  he  had  occasion  to  dismount  for  purposes  of 
natural  relief,  and  withdrew  somewhat  from  his  staff", 
thus  leaving  himself  unprotected.  Martialis  saw 
his  opportunity.      On  the  pretext  of  having   been 

I.      THE  FAMILY  OF  THE   EMPEROR    43 

called,  he  rushed  up  and  stabbed  the  defenceless 
Emperor  in  the  back,  then  made  off,  followed  by  the 
German  officers,  who  immediately  got  wind  of  what 
had  been  done.  He  was  the  cat's  paw,  and  suffered 
the  penalty  that  Macrinus  had  foreseen  would  be 
his.  Four  days  later,  2ii\6.,faute  de  viieux,  the  army 
offered  the  Empire  to  this  same  Macrinus,  little 
wotting  for  the  moment  what  his  part  had  been  in 
the  tragedy  they  deplored,  desiring  only  a  leader 
against  the  approaching  forces  of  King  Artabanus, 
As  usual, according  to  Herodian,  the  Senate  breathed 
a  sigh  of  relief  when  the  Emperor  died.  In  their 
effete  condition  they  were  only  too  anxious  to  change 
masters  as  often  as  possible.  With  a  want  of  politi- 
cal sense  and  ability,  which  so  well  merited  the 
treatment  they  received  at  the  hands  of  their  tyrants, 
that  august  body  continually  preferred  —  with  an 
entire  lack  of  statesmanship — the  unknown  to  the 
known  evils  of  their  future. 

At  the  time  of  Caracalla's  death,  Julia's  chief 
grief  was  at  the  loss  of  her  influence.  During  the 
last  quarter  of  a  century  she  had  had  the  world  at 
her  feet,  and  not  the  world  of  sycophants  by  any 
means.  Latterly  she  had  enjoyed  the  supreme 
power,  and  must  have  had  enormous  patronage  in 
her  hands  ;  naturally  her  nominees  would  be  men 
eager  in  her  interest  and  support.  Dion  seems 
to  say  that  her  first  idea  was  one  of  suicide,  as  a 
means  of  escaping  her  loss  of  prestige,  but  he  shows 
us  that  her  fears  proved  groundless,  since  the 
new  Emperor  left  her  in  Antioch  with  the  outward 
marks  of  her  dignity  unaltered.      It  was   certainly 


not   a  wise   policy  from    Macrinus'   point   of  view. 
Julia,  knowing  at  least  of  his  treachery,  and  ably 
assisted  by  her  crafty  sister,  took  advantage  of  the 
mismanagement  of  the  Parthian  campaign,  and  the 
insensate  strictness  with  which  this  pedantic  lawyer 
immediately  attempted  to   reform   the  manners  of 
his  young  soldiers,  to  suggest  that  she  herself  would 
make  a  better  ruler  than  this  pedagogue  (at  least, 
so    one    gathers    from    Dion,    78-23).       It    was    a 
chimerical  scheme  at  best,  and  as  Julia  knew  her 
Rome    so   well,    she   must    have    realized    that    no 
woman  could  have  a  chance,  as  sole  ruler,  in  such 
an  environment.      It  is  therefore  more   natural   to 
suppose  that  if  she   attempted   anything  at  all,  it 
was    to    suggest    some    youth    to    the    army    in 
whose    name   she    could    exercise    the    power   she 
loved ;    and   who   was   more   natural   than   the   son 
of  Soaemias   and   Caracalla?     It  is  conjectural,  of 
course,  but  the  report  of  his  paternity  seems  already 
to   have    been    abroad,    and    will    account    for   the 
extraordinary  alacrity  with   which    the    troops    re- 
ceived the  lad  a  few  months   later.     At  any  rate, 
something  caused  Macrinus  to  change  his  mind  as 
to  the  advisability  of  allowing  Julia  and  her  rela- 
tions   to    remain    longer    in    the    Eastern    capital. 
Thus  he  ordered  them  to  return  at  once  to  Emesa, 
whence   they  were    sprung.     Julia  was   too  proud 
to   submit   to   the   condition   of  subject   under   the 
adventurer    whom     her    family    had    raised     from 
nothing,    or    to    become    after    so    much    grandeur 
an  object  of  public  pity.     She  resolved,  therefore,  to 
escape   from   her  distress   like   a   Stoic    of  ancient 

.1      THE   FAMILY  OF  THE   EMPEROR    45 

days.  Moreover,  she  was  suffering  from  a  disease 
which  is  still  considered  incurable.  Death  was 
approaching  her ;  she  went  out  to  meet  it.  and 
either  allowed  herself  to  die  of  starvation  or  pierced 
her  cancer  with  a  poisoned  dagger.  The  report 
that  Macrinus  had  ordered  her  suicide  is  quite 
incompatible  with  his  other  dealings  towards  the 
family  of  Bassianus. 

Maesa,  more  prudent  and  more  far-seeing,  re- 
solved to  obey  the  order  literally,  and  returned  with 
her  widowed  daughters  (Dion),  their  two  sons,  and 
all  her  vast  treasure  to  her  native  city  of  Emesa, 
some  125  miles  south  of  Antioch.  Here,  as  we 
have  already  pointed  out,  the  family  was  of  immense 
importance,  not  only  on  account  of  their  hereditary 
position,  but  by  reason  of  their  wealth  and  imperial 
connections.  Macrinus'  short  tenure  of  office  is  one 
continual  record  of  gross  blunders,  of  which  this  is 
about  the  most  futile,  comparable  only  with  a  few 
similar  acts  perpetrated  by  our  own  Stuart  dynasty 
and  the  last  hereditary  kings  of  France.  Emesa 
was  the  one  place  in  the  Empire  where  Maesa  had 
real  power  and  authority.  A  whole  city  would 
back  her  pretensions  and  further  her  schemes  with 
a  devotion  that  Macrinus  could  only  expect  from 
the  handful  of  Moors  who  formed  his  bodyguard. 


THE    USURPATION    AND    FALL    OF    MACRINUS,    2  I  7-2  1 8 

Steps  to  Empire 

As  we  have  suggested,  Maesa  saw  more  possi- 
bilities in  living  than  in  assaying  that  better  part 
which  can  never  be  taken  from  men,  which  circum- 
stance shows  that  she  at  least  was  not  tainted  with 
the  growing  superstition  that  a  mythical  eternity  is 
preferable  to  a  certain  present.  She  promptly 
obeyed  the  edict  of  banishment  which  Macrinus 
had  published  against  the  relations  of  the  murdered 
Emperor,  and,  as  we  have  said,  took  with  her  to  her 
native  city  the  whole  of  her  wealth  and  belongings. 
It  was  some  time  during  the  winter  of  217/18  that 
Macrinus  ordered  the  family  of  Bassianus  to  leave 
Antioch,  and  it  was  this  very  departure  that  eventu- 
ally cost  him  his  throne  and  life.  Certainly  he  must 
have  known  that  plans  for  replacing  the  house  of 
Antonine  on  the  throne  were  rife.  The  final  result 
shows  months  of  work,  effected  only  by  hosts  of 
agents.  In  fact,  we  may  almost  surmise  that  govern- 
ment   servants    all    over    the    Empire    had    never 

acquiesced   in   the   usurpation   of  Macrinus    at   all, 


cH.ii.     USURPATION  OF  MACRINUS        47 

and  were  merely  biding  their  time.  There  was  only- 
one  safe  plan  for  Macrinus,  if  he  wanted  the  loyalty 
of  the  civil  and  military  parties  in  the  state,  namely, 
to  extirpate  the  whole  house  of  Antonine.  Instead 
of  taking  this  sensible  and  necessary  measure,  he 
merely  banished  the  relations  of  Caracalla,  whom 
the  soldiers  regarded  as  their  natural  allies,  most 
especially  the  son  and  impersonator  of  that  Emperor, 
the  young  Bassianus,  now  aged  about  fourteen 

They  had  more  than  one  grudge  against 
Macrinus.  First,  they  felt  the  utter  disgrace  of 
the  Parthian  campaign,  and  were  disgusted  at  the 
lying  medal  to  celebrate  a  victory  which  all  the 
world  knew  to  have  been  a  colossal  defeat.  Next, 
they  were  righteously  annoyed  at  the  restrictions 
put  on  their  usual  liberty.  Third,  they  were  quite 
unnecessarily  relegated,  on  half  rations,  to  un- 
comfortable winter  quarters,  their  pay  reduced,  and 
their  privileges  stopped. 

It  is  easy  to  imagine  the  soldiers'  disgust  at 
finding  themselves  subjects  to  a  mere  legal  pedant, 
in  the  place  of  their  popular  idol  and  born  leader 
Caracalla,  subjects  of  a  man  whose  prime  object 
seemed  to  be  the  infhction  of  harsh  and  unnecessary 
punishments  in  all  matters  concerning  the  ordinary 
enjoyments  common  to  their  state  and  life — a  ruler 
whose  first  reforms  were  to  make  criminal  offences 
those  natural  pleasures  which  were  alone  con- 
sidered to  make  the  strenuous  military  life  en- 
durable. Tristran,  quoting  from  Dion,  recalls  a 
law  which   ordained   the  burning  alive  of  a  soldier 

48  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

and  his  mistress  {junctis  corporibus) ;  or,  as  an  act 
of  grace,  their  walling  up  together  (in  the  same 
interesting  condition),  and  their  being  left  to  die  of 
hunger  and  suffocation.  This  feeling  of  rebellion 
was  by  no  means  lessened  when  men  knew  that 
the  new  Emperor  was  taking  his  ease  at  Antioch, 
the  Queen  of  the  East,  and  they  compared  this 
treatment  with  what  they  had  received  from  their 
friend  and  comrade  the  late  Emperor.  Macrinus 
was  full  of  regulations  for  others,  but  fully  impressed 
with  the  legal  maxim  that  the  lawgiver  is  above 
the  law.  It  is  small  wonder,  all  things  con- 
sidered, if  the  prayers  of  that  host  were  that  the 
Gods  would  favour  their  suppliants  both  in  their 
hatreds  and  in  their  lusts,  prayers  that  were  offered 
in  such  right  Davidic  fashion  that  Forquet  de  Dome 
thinks  the  attempts  made  even  during  this  period 
against  the  Emperor's  life  would  have  been  suc- 
cessful, if  it  had  not  been  for  the  fidelity  of 
his  fellow  Moors.  Macrinus,  like  other  amateur 
soldiers,  did  not  recognise  the  power  of  the  army 
in  the  government  of  a  military  empire.  He  seems 
to  have  thought  that  the  best  way  to  play  up  to  his 
electors  was  to  adopt  a  title  of  Severus  and  display 
it  towards  them  in  all  its  rigour.  Not  that  Macrinus' 
incapacity  as  a  statesman  and  military  leader  ceased 
here ;  he  made  a  yet  greater  mistake  in  leaving  a 
large  and  discontented  army  in  winter  quarters  in 
Syria,  partly  at  Emesa  itself.  These  legions  were 
nominally  for  the  protection  of  Phoenicia  ;  actually, 
they  kept  Maesa  in  touch  with  the  outside  world, 
and  were  under  the  direct  influence  of  her  active 


brain  and  limitless  treasure,  for  to  such  Herodian 
gives  us  to  understand  that  her  spoils  approximated. 
Little  could  the  Moor  have  imagined  what  a  volcano 
he  was  preparing  for  himself  when  he  left  together 
the  discontented  legionaries,  the  aunt  of  Caracalla, 
and  the  representative  of  the  house  and  name  of 
Severus :  whose  title  to  bastardy  henceforward 
became  of  prime  importance  to  the  family  and  their 

Julia  Maesa  had  not  lived  for  twenty-five  years 
at  the  Roman  Court  for  nothing.  She  knew  the 
men  with  whom  she  had  to  deal,  she  was  accus- 
tomed to  observe  and  meditate  ;  further,  she  had 
gold  which  openeth  the  heart  of  man,  and  an  in- 
telligence quite  acute  enough  to  know  where  it 
could  best  be  spent  in  order  to  yield  the  largest 
return.  Besides  this,  she  had  a  grandson  celebrated 
for  his  remarkable  beauty,  his  vivid  intelligence, 
and  his  admirable  gaiety.  For  such  a  youth 
employment  must  be  found  immediately.  Here  at 
Emesa  was  the  very  thing  ready  to  hand,  the 
sacerdotal  position  which  was  the  property  of  the 
family.  Maesa  knew  that  a  high  position  in  the 
Church  is  an  acquisition  which,  even  in  this  life,  is 
of  lucrative  and  social  advantage  to  the  holder. 
The  High-Priesthood  of  one  of  the  most  important 
religions  of  Syria  was  Bassianus'  possession  for  the 
mere  trouble  of  undergoing  the  ordination  rite, 
while  with  it  there  still  went  a  certain  amount  of 
the  former  princely  kudos  of  that  house.  No  sooner 
had  the  family,  with  apparent  grief  and  tribulation, 
covered  the  intervening  miles,  than  Bassianus  was 


endowed  with  the  family  offices,  dignities,  and 
emoluments,  while  his  cousin  Alexianus  was  most 
probably  associated  with  him  as  a  sort  of  priest 
or  acolyte.  A  very  fitting  figure  the  boy  made  as 
High  Priest  of  the  Semitic  Elagabal  or  Sun  God, 
the  God  of  Gods  made  without  hands,  supreme, 
fecund,  potent,  and  glorious.  Elagabal  was  wor- 
shipped under  the  symbol  of  a  great  black  stone  or 
meteorite,  in  the  shape  of  a  Phallus,  which,  having 
fallen  from  the  heavens,  represented  a  true  portion 
of  the  Godhead,  much  after  the  style  of  those 
black  stone  images  popularly  venerated  in  Nor- 
mandy and  other  parts  of  Europe  to-day.  The 
temple  itself  was  of  great  renown ;  its  celebrity 
was  gained  from  the  fact  that  it  represented  the 
greatest  natural  force  of  all  time,  and  its  magnifi- 
cence was  in  proportion  to  its  renown.  Gold, 
silver,  and  precious  stones  had  poured  into  it,  not 
only  from  the  countryside  and  from  Judea,  but  from 
kings,  satraps,  and  vassals  all  over  the  Eastern 
provinces.  Solomon's  temple,  though  nominally 
the  last  word  in  barbaric  ostentation,  was  easily 
surpassed  in  taste,  richness,  and  splendour  at 
Emesa.  Herodian  paints  vividly  the  sensuous 
beauty  of  the  worship,  the  vestments,  the  music, 
the  dances,  the  sacrifices,  and  the  mysteries,  till 
one  has  only  to  substitute  Jehovah  for  Baal,  and  one 
has  a  familiar  scene  ;  rather  more  splendid,  rather 
more  cosmopolitan  than  the  Jerusalem  mysteries, 
but  equally  designed  to  entrance  the  beholder  and 
to  mystify  the  devout.  But  whereas  Baal  drew 
all  men  within  his  warm,  natural,  fecund  embrace, 



Jehovah  was  at  best  a  local  deity  whom  no  one 
— save  those  urged  on  by  tribal  necessities — had 
ever  thought  it  worth  while  to  propitiate,  let  alone 
to  serve,  at  least  if  we  can  form  any  idea  of  his 
importance  from  the  Semitic  literature  and  philo- 
sophy when  compared  with  that  of  the  Western 

Into  all  this  power  and  sensuous  beauty  Bas- 
sianus  stepped  proudly,  as  supreme  lord,  knowing 
how  well  it  became  his  own  splendid  magnificence. 
He  must  have  been  warned  that  it  was  but  a  means 
to  an  end,  that  here  he  had  no  abiding  city  ;  but 
unfortunately  he  had  a  strong  strain  of  mystical 
devotion  in  his  blood,  and  immediately  became  an 
enthusiast  for  his  deity.  From  the  first  moment 
that  he  appears  upon  the  scene  the  boy  is  always  the 
same,  impulsive,  enthusiastic,  mystical,  continually 
dominated  by  that  effete  neuroticism  which  still 
trades  under  the  name  of  religion.  Thus  Bassianus 
gloried  in  the  beauty,  which  to  his  mind  expressed, 
however  inadequately,  the  potency  of  his  ineffable 
deity.  Here  was  a  God  who  was  able  to  make  men 
happy,  and  had  taken  him  into  a  very  specially  pro- 
tective embrace  ;  a  God  who  was  evidently  supreme, 
only,  and  alone,  the  God  of  the  Universe.  Further, 
Bassianus  gloried  in  his  own  beauty,  the  perfection 
with  which  he  had  learnt  to  dance  that  indolent 
measure  to  the  kiss  of  fiutes,  robed  in  garments  the 
like  of  which  he  had  not  imagined  during  his  resi- 
dence in  the  city  of  the  Caesars. 

Now.  it  will  be  remembered  that  Caracalla's 
soldiers  were  wintering,  half-fed,  loveless,  and  dis- 


contented  in  that  place,  and,  as  is  not  uncommon  with 
simple  men  of  that  profession,  they  were  easily- 
attracted  by  the  mysterious  and  the  unusual.  Soon 
they  heard  of  this  wonderful  boy,  in  whose  face  was 
the  enigmatic  beauty  shared  by  Gods  and  women  ; 
and  further,  it  was  rumoured  that,  unlike  most  re- 
ligious functionaries,  this  priest  was  more  ready  to 
give  than  to  receive.  They  came  in  scores  to  watch 
and  worship,  and  found,  when  they  came,  that  he 
possessed  the  charm  of  the  dissolute  and  the  way- 
ward, heightened  by  the  divine.  On  his  head  was 
a  diadem  set  with  precious  stones,  whose  iridescence 
sparkled  like  a  luminous  aureole  about  his  brow. 
His  frail  tunic  was  of  clinging  purple  silk  diapered 
with  gold,  the  sleeves  were  wide,  after  the  Phoenician 
fashion,  and  fell  to  his  feet,  and  he  was  shod  with 
fine  gilded  leather  reaching  to  his  thighs.  Many  of 
those  who  gazed  upon  him  must  have  seen  and 
remarked  his  beauty  in  the  great  City  of  the 
Empire,  whilst  those  who  ascended  to  the  temple 
and  beheld  its  rites  believed  each  day  more  strongly 
(assisted,  of  course,  by  Maesa's  well-spent  incentive) 
that  they  beheld  the  child  of  destiny.  Never  had 
his  beauty  appealed  as  now ;  never  had  the  soldiery 
felt  the  need  of  a  deliverer  as  much  as  at  present. 
Still  the  numbers  —  attracted  by  rumour  —  grew 
greater  till  the  lad,  feeling  the  return  of  Rome 
to  himself,  ceased  to  dance,  and  strolled  amongst 
his  beloved  soldiers,  surveying  them  with  the 
bold  feminine  eyes  they  loved.  Amongst  the 
troops  was  a  certain  Eutychianus,  called  by 
Xiphilinus,    Comazon,    because    he    took    part    in 


mimes  and  farces.  He  was  a  soldier  of  some  age 
and  renown  who  had  served  in  Thrace  under  the 
Emperor  Commodus,  and  was  a  man  of  growing 
influence  and  ability.  Publius  Valerius  Comazon 
Eutychianus  was  the  full  name  of  the  man,  who  was 
highly  honoured  for  his  part  in  the  subsequent 
proceedings.  It  is  impossible  to  believe  that 
this  man  was  merely  an  actor,  indeed  it  is  most 
probable  that  the  abridger  of  Dion  has  thought 
fit  to  introduce  a  bit  of  gratuitously  impossible 
information  when  he  remarks  that  Eutychianus 
was  only  a  freed  man  of  the  Emperor  and  an 
actor.  During  the  reign  of  Elagabalus  he  was 
once  Consul  and  twice  City  Praefect.  and  was 
again  appointed  to  this  same  office  under  the 
Emperor  Alexander. 

This  man  and  the  tutor  Gannys  seem  to  have 
been  the  means  of  forcing  home  on  the  neglected 
legionaries  two  most  important  items  of  informa- 
tion. Through  them  the  soldiers  were  reminded 
that  Bassianus  was  their  murdered  comrade's  son 
and  heir,  issue  of  the  Emperor  and  his  equally 
popular  cousin  Soaemias — that  fiery- eyed  woman 
of  superb  bearing,  before  whom  fire  had  been 
carried  as  before  an  Empress,  and  yet  one  whose 
favours  had  ever  been  for  the  strong,  whose  pre- 
dilections were  for  the  military.  Here  they  found 
her  again,  passionate  as  ever,  banished  on  account 
of  her  relationship  to  their  dead  leader,  and  banished 
by  the  man  they  now  knew  to  be  his  murderer. 
And  further,  they  found  her  rich.  Sedulously  she 
caused  the  rumour  of  her  generosity  to  circulate, 


until  all  men  knew  about  the  lumps  of  gold  she 
was  ready  to  give  to  any  one  who  would  place  her 
Antonine  on  the  throne  of  his  father.  It  may  have 
been  that  more  than  one  in  that  camp  could  have 
traced  a  resemblance  to  himself  in  the  young 
priest's  features,  but  none  did,  the  lumps  of  gold 
had  a  language  all  their  own,  a  persuasive  power 
so  potent  that  not  only  was  Bassianus  recognised 
with  a  frenzy  of  loyalty,  but  his  less  attractive 
cousin  Alexianus  was  accepted  as  his  half-brother, 
a  youth  whose  imperial  paternity  was  at  least  as 
possible  as  his  own. 

Now  the  question  was,  could  anything  be  done 
to  put  these  protestations  of  loyalty  to  some 
practical  use  ?  Bassianus  was  certainly  accepted 
by  the  legionaries  early  in  the  year  218  as  the 
legitimate  bastard  and  heir  of  Caracalla  ;  the  true 
Augustus,  deprived  of  his  throne  and  heritage  by 
the  hated  Moor,  —  the  man  who  had  killed  their 
idol,  and  was  now  oppressing  them  (which  was 
perhaps  more  to  the  point)  with  the  multitude  of 
his  civilian  parsimonies. 

Already  Maesa's  plans  (or  were  they  those  of 
Julia  Pia?)  were  taking  shape  in  a  manner  almost 
too  good  to  be  true,  when,  to  the  help  of  the  youth 
and  his  relatives,  came  the  divine  portents,  which 
were  the  accustomed  foreshadowings  of  important 
events.  The  great  God  veiled  his  face.  Elagabal 
signified  his  displeasure  at  the  rule  of  the  murderer 
by  an  eclipse,  and  following  on  the  eclipse  came  a 
comet,  a  daystar  from  on  high  (another  frequently 
recurring  sign  of  the  rise  of  a  redeemer  and  of  the 


rejuvenation  ofthevvorld).  These  signs  and  portents 
were  doubtless  adequately  explained  to  the  soldiers, 
and  seem  to  have  decided  them  to  redeem  their 
promises.  Within  four  days,  according  to  Wirth, 
it  was  decided  that  Bassianus  should  repair  to  the 
camp  with  his  treasure,  and  be  proclaimed  Emperor 
by  the  whole  army  in  that  province.  Of  course,  all 
this  took  time.  Authorities  differ,  not  only  as  to 
the  method  adopted,  but  also  as  to  the  month  in 
which  the  proclamation  took  place.  Dion  states 
definitely  that  Bassianus  was  proclaimed  Emperor 
at  dawn  on  i6th  May  218.  Wirth,  criticising  Dion, 
decides  that  the  proclamation  took  place  almost 
immediately  after  the  eclipse,  which  we  know  from 
Oppolzer  took  place  on  12th  April.  He  quotes 
Dion's  own  words  that  the  proclamation  took  place 
vTTo  TU'i  rifiepw;  eKeiva^  of  the  eclipse  ;  therefore  i6th 
May  is  obviously  a  scribe's  error  for  i6th  April,  as 
the  phrase  is  quite  incapable  of  bearing  the  meaning 
within  thirty-four  days.  Further,  Wirth  goes  on 
to  explain  that  haste  was  an  obvious  necessity,  as 
no  troops  would  ever  be  left  in  winter  quarters  till 
the  middle  of  May.  The  middle  of  April,  in  that 
province,  was  more  than  late  enough  to  account  for 
Dion's  statement  that  the  troops  had  been  unduly 
delayed  in  winter  quarters  that  year.  Undoubtedly, 
Wirth's  suggestion  as  to  an  earlier  date  of  procla- 
mation than  that  stated  in  the  present  text  of  Dion 
is  the  most  likely  ;  the  difficulty  lies  in  the  fact  that 
from  16th  April  to  8th  June,  the  date  of  the  battle, 
there  is  a  period  of  seven  weeks  in  which  the  active 
Maesa  apparently  did   nothing  ;    but  more  of   this 

56  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

later.  To  continue  with  the  story.  When  the 
preparations  were  ready,  and  the  portents  of  the 
eclipse  had  decided  the  superstitious,  Dion  says  that 
Bassianus,  Maesa,  and  the  family  of  the  Bassiani, 
with  wagons  bearing  their  treasure,  the  ransom 
of  the  Empire,  left  the  city,  and  took  up  their 
quarters  within  the  camp  on  the  night  of  15th  April 
(or  15th  May)  218.  Herodian  says  that  only  Bas- 
sianus and  Eutychianus  went,  and  by  stealth,  as 
Maesa  was  ignorant  of  the  final  plans,  though  both 
agree  that  at  dawn  on  the  next  day  the  High  Priest, 
Bassianus,  was  brought  out,  shown  to  the  soldiers, 
habited  in  the  clothes  that  Caracalla  had  worn, 
and  then,  Macrinus  having  been  deposed,  Bassianus 
was  elected  Emperor  in  his  stead,  under  the  title 
of  Marcus  Aurelius  Antoninus,  Antonini  Filius, 
Severi  Nepos,  Augustus,  Pius,  Felix.  Herodian 
adds  that  the  camp  was  at  once  fortified,  both  to 
protect  the  young  Emperor — who,  like  his  putative 
father,  preferred  the  camp  to  the  palace — and  also 
to  withstand  the  punitive  expedition  which  Macrinus 
was  bound  to  send  as  soon  as  he  heard  of  the 
revolt  and  mutiny.  The  news  would  take  at  least 
a  couple  of  days  to  reach  Antioch,  if  not  consider- 
ably longer,  considering  that  the  soldiers  had  taken 
care  to  keep  the  proceedings  within  the  camp. 
In  due  course  Macrinus  heard  of  their  audacity. 
He  was  astonished  and  disgusted,  and  frankly  said 
so.  The  account  which  he  sent  to  the  Senate 
was  not  pleasant  reading  for  any  of  those  it  con- 
cerned ;  but  except  by  means  of  the  pen,  the  nomi- 
nally deposed   Emperor   did   not   think   that   much 

n.  USURPATION  OF  MACRINUS         57 

need  be  done.  Still,  that  a  mere  boy,  with  a  hand- 
ful of  women,  should  have  seduced  the  defenders 
of  a  province  was  preposterous.  Something  must 
be  done  to  show  the  soldiery  that,  though  Caracalla 
might  have  stood  such  freedom  of  choice  (which 
by  the  way  he  never  did),  he,  Macrinus,  was  now 
master  of  the  Empire,  and  incidentally  their  master 
as  well.  It  was  a  veritable  storm  in  a  tea- cup, 
of  course,  but  really  upsetting  to  the  man  who 
thought  that  his  troubles  were  now  over,  that  rest 
remained  for  the  elect  of  the  Gods.  The  remark- 
able thing  about  Macrinus  is,  that  he  seems  to 
have  been  absolutely  in  the  dark  as  to  the  state 
of  public  opinion,  and  the  extent  of  the  plot  for 
replacing  the  Antonine  House  on  the  throne.  As 
we  read  the  history  of  Bassianus'  phenomenal 
rise  to  power,  there  is  a  ring  of  the  English 
Restoration.  It  is  impossible  to  account  for 
his  universal  success  except  on  the  grounds  that 
the  government  officials  everywhere  as  well  as  the 
soldiers  recognised  in  him  a  legitimate  sovereign  and 
an  obvious  ruler.  From  the  moment  at  which  he 
set  up  his  standard  there  seems  to  have  been 
no  sort  of  adequate  opposition  either  from  the  civil 
or  military  government  of  Macrinus ;  while,  on 
the  other  hand,  Bassianus  obviously  had  a  party 
organised  in  every  city  and  province,  which  was 
sedulously  kept  informed  of  his  progress  from  day  to 
day.  Not  only  a  party,  but  tJic  party,  as  there  is  no 
instance — except  at  Alexandria,  where  the  Antonines 
were  scarcely  popular — of  Bassianus'  legates  being 
received   otherwise   than    with   open   arms.      None 

58  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

of  which  facts  argue  well  for  the  position  of  the 
Moor  in  the  state.  Macrinus  was  inclined  to 
overestimate  his  popularity,  and  he  certainly  under- 
estimated the  influence  of  youths  and  women. 
Perhaps  he  had  no  experience  of  female  tactics, 
and  the  persistency  with  which  they  prosecute  their 
own  designs ;  he  obviously  thought  a  sententious 
letter  to  the  Senate,  full  of  smug  platitudes,  abuse 
of  the  army  and  the  house  of  Antonine,  was  what 
that  august  assembly  wanted.  So  far  he  had  not 
missed  his  mark  ;  but  when  he  went  on  to  inform 
them  that  they  would  never  have  any  desire  to 
wish  him  any  hurt,  one  of  the  Senators,  Fulvius 
Diogenianus  by  name  (who  was  obviously  better 
informed  than  the  majority  as  to  the  likelihood 
of  their  having  to  put  up  with  Macrinus  much 
longer),  answered  immediately  and  with  surprising 
candour,  "  But  that  is  what  we  are  all  longing  for"  ; 
whereupon  the  Senate  sent  word  to  the  army  that 
their  general  and  Emperor  was  not  to  be  trusted 
on  several  counts. 

Macrinus,  however,  was  not  entirely  idle ;  he 
had  at  least  begun  to  think.  True,  he  had,  for 
himself,  preferred  the  pen  to  the  sword,  and  then 
found  that  the  pen  was  a  double-edged  weapon 
like  the  sword,  only  rather  more  dangerous,  because 
it  constituted  documentary  evidence.  Still,  he 
would  not  let  others  err  in  the  same  way.  He 
sent  for  his  Praetorian  Praefect,  Ulpius  Julianus, 
to  attend  at  his  silken  couch  and  talk  business. 
The  result  of  this  conference  was  that  Macrinus 
resolved    to   strike   fear,   by  proxy   of  course,  into 


the  hearts  of  that  "  child  and  idiot,"  his  two  women, 
and  the  legion  who  supported  him  ;  and  where,  he 
argued,  would  the  revolt  be  when  their  hopes, 
centred  in  a  child,  too  young  to  know  even  the 
rudiments  of  politics,  were  suddenly  blighted  ?  Of 
course,  he  would  like  news,  and  yes,  he  thought 
he  had  better  say  it,  the  boy's  head  in  a  charger 
—  stone-dead  hath  no  fellow.  It  would  put  the 
Emperor  quite  at  his  ease  once  again  to  know  that 
his  rival  was  dead.  It  was  perhaps  foolish  to  be 
concerned  about  so  effete  a  crew,  nothing  could 
come  of  it  all ;  but  still  he  would  feel  relieved  if 
Julian  would  go  at  once  to  Emesa. 

We  are  not  told  how  long  Julian  took  in  his 
preparations,  or  on  the  journey.  From  Macrinus' 
attitude  of  disregard,  probably  he  was  not  specially 
pressed,  though  from  his  selection  of  troops  Julian 
must  have  thought  the  rising  more  important  than 
Macrinus  had  pretended  in  his  letter  to  the  Senate. 
Julian's  chief  anxiety  was  to  secure  loyalty  to 
Macrinus  amongst  the  men  he  took  for  the  sup- 
pression of  this  revolt.  Certain  incautious  specu- 
lations amongst  the  men  led  to  the  execution 
of   several    before  the  expedition    started.       From 


his  position  as  Praetorian  Praefect,  Julian  would 
take  a  fair  contingent  ;  his  dignity  demanded 
it,  and  probably  his  knowledge  of  the  state  of 
politics  would  tell  him  that  a  strong  movement  was 
necessary  at  the  outset.  Apparently  about  three 
legions  went  in  all.  Julian  added  to  his  forces  a 
large  number  of  Moors,  unless  Herodian  means 
that  he  took  the  Moorish  cohorts  of  the  Praetorian 

6o  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

Guard  as  main  body,  and  added  other  men  to 
these  ;  in  any  case,  it  seems  obvious  that,  even  if 
the  government  had  not  got  wind  of  what  was 
going  forward,  the  army  had,  and  in  consequence 
the  Moors,  as  Macrinus'  own  countrymen,  were 
considered  the  most  trustworthy  soldiers  for  the 
work,  besides  which  they  were  never  over-particular 
in  their  methods.  There  is  evidence  that,  no  matter 
how  much  he  might  belittle  the  movement  in  public, 
Macrinus  knew  that  the  "  Idiot  "  and  his  two  women 
were  likely  to  have  a  full  dog's  chance,  and  get 
a  good  run  for  their  money. 

The  journey  from  Antioch  to  Emesa  is,  as 
we  have  said,  a  matter  of  125  miles.  The 
report  of  the  meeting  inside  the  camp  had  to 
reach  Macrinus  ;  he  had  to  get  his  mind  attuned 
to  the  extraordinary  circumstances  ;  then  appoint 
Julian,  who  had  to  make  his  inquisition  and 
other  preparations,  and  then  get  to  Emesa.  Con- 
jecturally,  he  could  not  have  arrived  with  an 
effective  force  much  before  the  28th  of  April,  or 
settled  down  to  attack  the  fortified  camp  outside 
the  city  till  that  day.  On  the  first  day,  Dion  tells 
us  that  Julian  all  but  took  the  camp  in  a  long  day's 
fight ;  but  it  was  heavy  work,  and,  contrary  to 
Macrinus'  expectation,  the  arrival  of  Julian  had  not 
struck  fear  into  the  heart  of  the  "effeminate  and 
debauched  Syrian  lad,"  who  was  still  with  his 
soldiers,  and  showed  no  intention  of  giving  way 
even  when  the  sun  began  to  decline  in  the  west. 

Unfortunately  for  Julian — and  incidentally  for 
his  master  also,  as  things  turned  out — the  Praefect 



Coin  of  Marcus  Aurelius  Antoninus  (Caracalhi) 
( liritisli  Museum). 

Coin  of  Marcus  Aurelius  Antoninus  I  I'.lagabalus) 
(British  Museum). 

Coin  of  Macrinus  recording  Victoria  Farthica,  .\.i).  218. 
( From  a  woodcut. ) 

Coin  of  Diadunienianus  as  Kmperor,  .\.i).  218  (British  Museum). 

Face  pagt  60. 


thought  that  "  the  night  cometh  in  which  no  man 
can  work,"  and  gave  his  Moors  leave  to  retire  to 
their  lines  at  sunset.  With  them  went  certain 
of  the  Emesan  legionaries,  displaying  a  hardihood 
truly  heroic,  unless  they  were  fairly  sure  of  their 
ground.  All  that  night  they  worked,  spreading 
their  evangel,  talking,  persuading,  and  promising  on 
behalf  of  Antonine  and  his  gold  ;  talking  until  even 
the  besieging  Moors  knew  full  well  that  those  walls 
held  not  only  the  son  of  Caracalla,  but  the  limitless 
wealth  which  he  was  ready  to  give  to  all  those  who 
would  assist  him  in  reaching  the  throne  of  his  father 
and  their  hero.  It  was  enough.  When  morning 
broke,  the  vision  of  his  Augustitude  was  seen  above 
the  walls  of  the  camp,  dressed  in  garments  which 
they  could  recognize  from  their  colour  and  shape  as 
having  belonged  to  Caracalla,  and  surrounded  by 
his  money  bags.  There  he  stood,  boldly  and 
proudly,  certainly  in  imminent  danger  of  death 
from  the  besiegers,  but  without  fear,  while  all 
around  him  rose  a  great  shout,  "  Behold  the  image 
of  your  benefactor !  can  you  fight  against  him  and 
us,  who  stand  by  him  for  his  father's  sake  ?  "  Now, 
the  resemblance,  as  shown  on  the  coins  given  by 
Cohen  [m^e  coin  8,  p.  324,  and  coin  i,  p.  243,  vol.  iv.). 
is  quite  remarkable  ;  whether  it  was  merely  a  family 
likeness  or  entirely  paternal,  it  was  quite  good  enough 
for  men  who  at  some  little  distance  were  already  con- 
vinced, and  entirely  anxious  to  share  in  the  largess 
that  they  had  seen  was  already  the  prize  of  others. 

There   was   no   further   fighting,   for  all   Julian's 
orders.      The  soldiers  threw  down  their  arms  and 

62  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

refused  battle  against  the  popular  idol.  True, 
there  was  still  a  question  of  heads,  but  the  head 
of  the  "  Idiot "  was  not  thought  about  in  the  old 
connection  ;  it  was  too  valuable  where  it  was.  It 
was  the  officers  of  Macrinus  who  suffered  at  the 
hands  of  those  who  were  candidates  for  their 
offices,  and  to  whom  the  position  and  property 
of  the  defunct  had  been  promised  by  the  new 
Emperor.  The  last  to  fall  was  Julian.  That  trusty 
favourite  of  the  deposed  Emperor  had  managed  to 
escape  when  he  saw  the  way  that  the  tide  was 
flowing,  but  for  a  general  commanding-in-chief 
to  escape  is  not  easy,  and  there  were  doubtless 
many  aspirants  for  his  responsibility  and  position. 
Herodian  tells  a  dismal  tale  of  the  Praefect  found  in 
hiding,  where  he  was  given  a  short  shrift,  because 
his  head  was  wanted  for  a  use  other  than  that  of 
commanding  the  Praetorian  Guards.  The  in- 
geniousness  of  the  conquerors  had  designed  it  as 
an  evangel,  or  announcement  of  good  tidings  to 
Macrinus,  impersonating  the  head  he  wanted,  that 
of  Bassianus  the  Impostor. 

But  to  return  to  Macrinus.  Julian  departed 
on  his  mission,  the  Emperor  seems  to  have  got 
more  and  more  worried  ;  people  must  have  told 
him  things  which  he  had  never  heard  before,  and 
he  appears  to  have  worked  himself  into  a  fever  of 
excitement,  a  simple  longing  to  do  something,  no 
matter  what,  to  get  on  the  move,  to  propitiate  some- 
body, chiefly  the  soldiers  whom  he  had  neglected, 
and  well,  perhaps,  just  a  bit  persecuted.  It  had  all 
been  for  their  good,  of  course,  but  now  he  had  to  think 


of  his  own  good  ;  and  so  he  set  out  towards  Emesa. 
Not  that  he  had  any  intention  of  endangering  his 
precious  person  by  going  anywhere  in  that  vicinity 
himself;  but  there  was  the  second  Parthian  Legion, 
enrolled  by  Severus,  and  very  loyal  to  the  house  of 
Antonine,  which  was  wintering  at  Apamea,  about 
half-way  between  Antioch  and  Emesa.  Perhaps  it 
would  be  as  well  to  modify  that  precious  title  of  his 
by  gifts,  largesses,  and  other  privileges,  especially 
in  the  case  of  this  particular  legion  of  Albano,  as  it 
was  called,  a  legion  which  was  so  near  the  danger 
zone,  and  whose  defection  might  simply  mean  flight 
for  Macrinus.  Gold  had  worked  miracles  at  Emesa, 
but  Macrinus  was  not  so  foolish  as  to  expect  miracles, 
he  only  wanted  mercenary  service  ;  neither  did  he 
want  any  more  talk  of  bribes,  which  every  one 
would  accept  very  readily,  and  would  as  readily 
repudiate  the  responsibility  thereby  incurred.  But 
surely  what  had  paid  at  Emesa  ought  to  pay  at 
Apamea  too.  If  a  boy  Emperor  Bassianus  was 
popular  there,  why  not  set  up  a  child  yet  younger 
than  the  impostor ;  in  fact,  why  not  make  his  own 
son,  Diadumenianus,  Associate  Emperor  with  him- 
self? The  boy  was  quite  ten  years  of  age,  and  would 
make  a  fitting  set-off  to  the  "Idiot"  of  fourteen, 
whose  youthful  pretensions  he  had  just  derided  so 
conclusively  before  the  Senate.  Besides  which,  it 
would  be  an  additional  security  for  his  family  if 
anything  untoward  should  happen,  and  would 
furnish  the  occasion  for  a  largess,  which  Macrinus 
was  wanting.  It  would  be  an  occasion  at  which 
no    one    could    cavil,    no    one    pretend    to    sneer. 

64  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

Neither  would  it  be  a  craven  act,  such  as  the 
late  dealings  with  Parthia  had  been  stigmatised. 
It  was  quite  a  budget  that  the  ponderous  lawyer 
had  thought  out  in  so  short  a  space  of  time. 
Travelling,  he  knew  not  quite  whither,  had  sharpened 
his  wits  wonderfully,  and  he  did  more  than  plan  ;  he 
executed  his  design  without  delay.  The  legions 
rejoiced  once  more  in  their  demoralising  privileges, 
and  in  more  than  they  could  have  hoped  for  in  the 
way  of  extra  pay.  Dion  tells  us  that  on  the  day 
when  Macrinus  declared  his  son  Antonine  and 
Augustus  (with  no  senatorial  patent,  of  course)  he 
promised  to  each  legionary  5000  drachmae,  of  which 
1000  were  to  be  paid  down.  Further,  in  the  letter 
to  the  Senate  which  announced  his  son's  eleva- 
tion, he  promised  to  each  Roman  citizen  a  con- 
giary  of  150  drachmae.  Obviously  Macrinus  was 
changing  his  views  ;  in  his  last  letter  he  had  played 
up  to  the  Senate  and  despised  the  army ;  he  was 
now  playing  up  to  the  army,  and  showing  the 
Senate  and  sovereign  people  of  Rome  that  he 
estimated  their  worth  at  just  one  thirty-third  of  the 
amount  at  which  he  valued  a  base  soldier  —  a 
man  who  would  continually  suffer  himself  to  be 
bribed,  to  the  enormous  hurt  of  the  state,  as 
he  had  so  recently  enforced  upon  the  senatorial 

Macrinus  was  certainly  not  clever,  his  acrobatic 
feats  were  never  graceful,  never  gained  him  much 
applause  even  from  the  gallery.  The  occasion  of 
this  congiary  and  donative  was  certainly  a  good  bid 
for  general  popularity  ;  rejoicings  went   on  apace  ; 



the  obedient  Senate,  having  taken  their  bribe, 
poured  contumely  upon  the  house  of  Antonine 
with  a  hearty  goodwill,  and  declared  its  members 
enemies  to  the  state  and  commonwealth  of  Rome. 
But  somehow  no  one  was  quite  satisfied,  certainly 
not  Macrinus  ;  the  news  he  was  expecting  did  not 
come  ;  the  head  he  wanted  had  not  yet  been  sent. 

There  is  a  certain  difficulty  about  the  date  of 
Diadumenianus'  elevation.  Neither  Dion  nor 
Herodian  state  definitely  when  it  was  effected, 
Mommsen  postulates  that  it  must  be  late  in  May 
on  account  of  the  scarcity  of  evidence  on  the  point. 
There  are  several  known  coins  which  call  him 
Emperor,  one  struck  at  Antioch,  another  at 
Thyatira  in  218;  a  third  obviously  earlier  in  the 
same  year  omits  the  title.  Certainly  the  writer 
of  Macrinus'  letters  to  the  Senate  places  it  after 
the  proclamation  of  Bassianus,  and  leads  one  to 
suppose  that  it  took  place  as  given  above,  at 
Apamea,  and  was  the  means  adopted  to  conciliate 
the  legionaries. 

Meanwhile  at  Emesa  busy  brains  had  been 
busily  at  work.  A  gentle  reminder  of  his  perilous 
position  was  on  the  way  to  Macrinus.  By  way 
of  showing  him  that  Julian  had  forced  a  battle, 
and  was  sending  the  spoil  to  grace  the  festivities 
arranged  for  the  Child  Emperor's  elevation, 
Eutychianus  Comazon,  the  soldier  whose  per- 
suasive power  and  influence  had  been  of  such  use 
to  Maesa,  bethought  himself  of  a  pleasant  sur- 
prise. He  took  the  Praefect's  head  and  wrapped 
it  in  linen  cloths,  tied  it  with   many  and  elaborate 


66  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

cords,  then,  taking  Julian's  own  signet,  he  sealed 
the  bundle  carefully  and  sent  it  by  the  hands  of  a 
trusty  and  cunning  soldier.  "  From  the  victorious 
Praefect  Julian  to  his  august  Emperor,  with  greet- 
ing. The  head  and  source  of  our  offence,  according 
to  the  commandment."  Judge  of  the  fright  and 
disgust  which  arose  in  the  breast  of  that  Moor  on 
discovering,  when  the  bundle  was  opened,  not  the 
features  of  his  despised  enemy,  but  the  death-mask 
of  his  trusty  and  well -beloved  lieutenant,  the  man 
who  had  saved  him  from  Caracalla's  vengeance  at 
the  outset  of  his  own  plot.  Merely  that,  and  no 
further  news  to  hand,  because  the  bearer  of  the 
tidings  had  departed  without  waiting  for  a  reward. 
Bit  by  bit  the  news  trickled  through  :  at  least  four 
legions  had  deserted,  and,  greatest  blow  of  all,  the 
very  Moors  in  whom  he  had  trusted.  The  hated 
Antonine  was  triumphant  and  in  the  ascendant. 
It  was  enough  to  wake  even  the  comatose  parody 
of  the  great  Marcus  Aurelius.  After  waiting  to 
recover  his  senses,  he  took  to  his  heels  and  ran — 
discretion  being  the  better  part  of  valour — not, 
however,  as  Herodian  suggests,  with  characteristic 
untruth,  towards  Emesa,  but  back  to  Antioch,  as 
Dion  discreetly  remarks,  with  Bassianus  and  his 
paltry,  though  rapidly  augmenting,  forces  soon  to 
follow.  The  boy  and  idiot  was  ready  to  fight  the 
Praetorian  Guards,  ready  even  to  face  the  brunt  of 
opposition  from  the  conciliated  legion  at  Apamea 
if  necessary. 

Bassianus'  army  must  have  been  enthusiastically 
loyal  and  keen.      It  was  a  motley  crew  of  men,  with 


new  officers  and  a  disorganised  commissariat  ; 
certainly  it  had  no  adequate  head.  Indeed,  had 
Macrinus  taken  the  bull  by  the  horns  at  once, 
he  was  bound  to  have  cut  up  Antonine's  forces 
and  silenced  the  revolt ;  but  he  escaped,  hoping  to 
fight  another  day,  and  Bassianus  instead  came  to 
Apamea.  Here  Severus'  legion  of  Albano  was 
in  no  mood  to  offer  opposition  to  the  heir  of 
Severus,  and  promptly  took  the  suggested  oaths, 
which  added  yet  more  strength  to  the  rush  that 
was  about  to  be  made  on  Antioch,  where  Macrinus 
was  sheltering  himself  and  shivering  with  appre- 
hension, having  left  the  field  clear  to  his  adversary, 
and  given  him  just  what  he  wanted,  time  for  acces- 
sion of  strength. 

To  return  for  a  moment  to  the  length  of  time 
during  which  this  campaign  lasted.  If  we  accept 
Dion's  date  of  i6th  May  for  the  proclamation,  there 
will  only  be  three  weeks  left  before  the  battle,  in 
which  time  much  has  to  happen.  First,  The  news 
has  to  be  brought  to  Macrinus  125  miles  away. 
Second,  Macrinus  has  to  appoint  Julian,  who  has 
carefully  to  choose  his  men,  to  reach  Emesa,  and 
lose  his  head  in  the  effort  to  take  Antonine.  In 
the  meantime  Macrinus  has  written  to  the  Senate 
to  announce  the  revolt,  and  get  that  body's  con- 
demnation of  the  Antonine  house.  He  has  then 
gone  to  Apamea  with  the  court  and  baggage, 
declared  his  son  Emperor,  and,  as  he  thought, 
pacified  the  legion  and  organised  festivities,  during 
which  festivities  he  receives  ocular  demonstration 
of  the  failure  of  Julian's  attempt.      He  then  writes 


to  the  Senate  a  hurried  letter  announcing  his  son's 
accession,  and  receives  an  answer  to  his  first  letter 
condemning  the  house  of  Antonine.  He  then 
retires  to  A.ntioch,  and  here  there  seems  to  be  a  lull, 
during  which  time  the  patrolling  parties,  for  whom 
Macrinus  has  sent,  come  in  to  Bassianus'  standard, 
not  Macrinus'.  Herodian  says  that  this  happened 
in  driblets,  but  that  these  amounted  to  such  a  number 
before  the  ist  of  June,  that  Antonine's  generals 
advised  him  to  tempt  a  battle.  All  this,  especially 
the  wait  for  gradual  accessions  of  strength,  would 
have  been  impossible  to  fit  into  less  than  a  fortnight. 
But  there  is  further  evidence.  According  to 
Henzen,  the  Collegio  Fratrum  Arvalium  were 
concerned  on  30th  May  with  the  "  precatio  co- 
optionis  Antonini,"  to  be  admitted  a  member  of 
the  College.  If  the  proclamation  had  only  taken 
place  on  i6th  May,  the  Brothers  could  not  have 
known  about  it  and  arranged  a  meeting  by  30th 
May,  especially  when  we  consider  that  (according 
to  Dion)  Macrinus'  letters  to  the  Senate  had  caused 
that  august  body  to  declare  war  on  the  family  of 
Antonine  after  that  time.  Had  Bassianus  been 
proclaimed  on  i6th  April  and  the  Brothers  heard 
of  his  phenomenal  success,  they  would  naturally 
hasten  to  be  on  the  safe  side  by  30th  May. 
Within  a  month  from  that  date  they  would  have 
heard  of  the  defeat  of  Macrinus,  so  that  in  all  prob- 
ability the  meeting  which  admitted  Bassianus  and 
sent  Primus  Cornelianus  to  announce  his  admission 
was  held  about  28th  June.  On  14th  July  there 
is   the   record    of  a    third    meeting,   which  merely 


takes  further  vows  for  Antonine's  safety,  as  the 
Emperor,  who  has  been  already  admitted  a  mem- 
ber. Dion's  date  is,  therefore,  simply  impossible. 
Neither  Macrinus  nor  Antonine  could  have  accom- 
plished what  they  did  in  a  fortnight,  even  three 
weeks.  Rome  could  not  possibly  have  heard  and 
answered  under  five  weeks,  even  by  express  post. 
Bassianus  could  not  possibly  have  got  together 
forces  enough  to  assure  success  under  that  period. 
We  must  therefore  conclude  that  Dion's  date, 
16th  May,  is  a  mere  slip  for  i6th  April,  as  Wirth 
has  postulated. 

This  is  very  forcibly  brought  home  to  us  when 
we  realise  (as  Herodian  tells  us)  that  when  Bas- 
sianus did  move  on  Antioch,  it  was  with  forces 
scarcely  inferior  in  number  to  those  with  Macrinus, 
and  by  so  doing  he  managed  to  frighten  the  Moor 
out  of  his  lair,  because  there  was  a  fear  that  Antioch 
might  fall  and  he  would  be  caught  like  a  rat  in  a  trap. 
Thus  was  Macrinus  forced  out  to  meet  the  child. 
Again  the  ancient  Procurator- Fiscal  made  an  error 
of  judgment  by  taking  command  himself.  He  would 
have  done  better  to  stay  in  the  city  and  give  the 
command  to  a  trained  <T:eneral  ;  but  not  a  bit  of  it, 
he  was  too  anxious,  too  worried  to  trust  any  one. 
When  he  heard  that  Antonine  was  nearing  Immae 
or  Emma,  not  twenty  miles  from  Antioch,  he  went 
out  suddenly,  resolved  to  trust  to  his  Moors  and 
Praetorians  for  the  result. 

In  this  battle  the  valour  of  both  armies  seems  to 
have  been  indifferent.  Herodian  tells  us  that  the 
soldiers  of  Antonine  fought  like  lions,  fearing  the 

yo  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

results  of  doing  anything  else  ;  preferring  to  die 
like  men  than  to  be  hanged  like  dogs  ;  a  report  of 
valour  which  was  probably  picked  up  from  that 
army  itself.  But  the  stars  in  their  courses  seem 
to  have  fought  against  Sisera  in  the  person  of 
Macrinus,  while  Deborah  and  her  leman  Barak, 
otherwise  Maesa  and  her  similarly  related  Gannys 
(neither  of  whom  had  ever  seen  red  blood  before 
save  in  the  circus)  managed  so  to  shut  up  the 
forces  of  Macrinus  in  the  narrowness  of  the  village, 
that  their  numbers  and  superior  agility,  divested  as 
they  were  of  their  cuirasses  and  bucklers  for  that 
end,  were  of  small  effect.  Nevertheless,  the  issue 
of  the  battle  would  have  been  not  a  little  doubtful 
if  Macrinus  had  not  given  it  away  by  his  cowardice. 
The  guards  made  so  vigorous  a  stand,  that  Anto- 
nine's  army  turned  to  fly.  It  was  then  that  Maesa 
and  Soaemias  showed  their  bravery,  according  to 
both  Dion  and  Herodian,  for,  having  leapt  from 
their  chariots,  they  rushed  into  the  midst  of  the 
failing  troops,  and  with  tears  and  entreaties  urged 
them  to  return.  The  palm  of  victory  seems,  how- 
ever, to  lie  with  the  boy  Emperor.  Both  Dion 
and  Herodian  tell  us  of  his  bravery  and  the  mighty 
fury  which  (like  a  divine  inspiration)  breathed  from 
him,  when,  sword  in  hand,  he  galloped  through  the 
failing  ranks  and  cut  down  all  those  who  showed  an 
inclination  to  turn  from  the  fight.  It  was  a  good 
beginning,  and  shows  that  the  boy  was  not  entirely 
what  his  biographers  have  painted  him — the  craven, 
miserable,  religious  sensualist  known  to  common 
report.      He   showed   in   this   battle   that  he  could 


glory  in  his  manhood,  could  forget  that  salvation 
was  by  faith  and  prayer  alone  ;  could  forget  that 
only  the  Gods  can  settle  the  great  issues.  It  was 
thus  that  Antonine  carried  his  successful  arms  right 
into  the  opposing  camp,  hoping  to  find  the  Moor  ; 
but  to  the  disgust  of  all  that  host,  the  Emperor  had 
vanished  ;  being  tired,  he  had  gone  home.  His 
Praetorians  had  sought  for  some  time  for  the 
ensigns  that  announced  the  presence  of  the  Em- 
peror, but  they  had  sought  in  vain,  and  deserters 
had  told  Antonine  the  story. 

Antonine  now  made  a  proposition  to  the  op- 
posing host,  namely,  that  they  should  turn  and 
become  his  guards,  should  retain  the  privileges 
granted  by  Caracalla,  and  above  all,  should  fight  no 
more  for  the  craven.  Nothing  loath,  they  did  as 
they  were  bidden,  and  by  nightfall  on  8th  June  218 
the  proclaimed  Emperor  Marcus  Aurelius  Antoninus 
was  the  acknowledged  head  of  the  greater  part  of  the 
army,  and  ruler  of  the  Roman  world  which  acknow- 
ledged Antioch  as  its  capital.  Maesa's  bold  attempt 
had  succeeded  beyond  all  her  hopes.  The  one  source 
of  trouble  was  that  Macrinus  was  still  at  large. 

The  Antonine  policy  had  never  been  that  of 
Macrinus.  They  had  always  eradicated  the  source 
of  their  offence  as  far  as  they  were  able,  and  to 
that  end  Marcus  Aurelius  sent  messengers  to  take 
the  ex- Emperor's  person.  From  the  battle-field 
that  caitiff  had  gone,  first  to  Antioch,  sending 
heralds  on  ahead  to  announce  their  master's  victory 
and  the  destruction  of  the  Antonine  host,  lest  the 
populace  should  seize  the  city  for  Antonine  and  kill 

72  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

him,  or,  as  Xiphilinus  puts  it,  in  order  to  induce 
them  to  receive  him  into  their  city  at  all.  Had 
there  been  time,  we  might  have  had  another 
medal,  in  correspondence  with  the  Parthian  fraud, 
announcing  the  victory  of  Macrinus  at  Immae  ;  but 
stragglers  began  to  come  in,  and  with  them  the 
news  that  Antonine  would  arrive  shortly  at  the 
head  of  the  whole  army,  an  announcement  which 
caused  bloodshed  and  strife  in  the  city,  and  decided 
Macrinus  to  reconstruct  his  plans.  He  would  not 
stay,  he  decided,  where  he  was  not  wanted ;  he 
would  make  his  way  to  Rome,  in  the  hope  that  his 
kindness  to  the  Senate  would  at  least  secure  them 
as  a  bodyguard — though  what  use  some  600  portly 
and  middle-aged  gentlemen  were  going  to  be  to 
him  against  the  legions  of  a  military  empire  was  a 
question  that  had  not  yet  occurred  to  his  distracted 
mind  ;  but  at  any  rate  Antioch  was  no  place  for  him 
or  his  son.  The  latter  he  entrusted  to  Epagathos, 
one  of  the  few  men  on  whom  he  could  rely,  with 
orders  to  take  him  to  the  King  of  Parthia  for  safe 
keeping ;  whilst  he  himself,  having  cut  off  his  hair 
and  beard,  and  laid  aside  the  purple  and  imperial 
ornaments  for  his  successor's  use,  set  out  for  the 
capital  city  by  the  route  used  for  the  ordinary  post. 
It  is  a  most  significant  fact  that  this  man,  the 
acknowledged  Emperor,  should  on  the  very  day 
of  the  battle  itself  have  distrusted  all  his  own 
lieutenants,  governors,  and  civil  officials  to  such  an 
extent  that  he  felt  the  only  safe  mode  of  progress 
was,  disguised  as  a  countryman,  to  travel  by  the 
public  carriage.      It  presupposes  that  by  this  time 

in  USURPATION  OF  MACRINUS         7^^ 


all  men  were  merely  waiting  for  his  fall,  which  was 
anticipated  everywhere  as  a  foregone  conclusion, 
the  inevitable  result  of  a  weak  usurper's  unsuccess- 
ful attempt. 

It  is  incredible  that  all  the  government  servants 
and  other  accredited  agents  of  Macrinus  would 
have  dared  to  give  credit  immediately  to  the 
ambassadors  of  an  unknown  pretender,  and  only 
in  Alexandria  (where  the  name  of  Antonine  had 
acquired  an  unenviable  notoriety  and  there  was  a 
personal  friend  of  Macrinus  as  governor)  were 
Antonine's  ambassadors  put  to  death  as  upstart 
traitors.  True,  there  have  been  fugitive  kings 
before  and  since,  but  never  after  one  battle  and  to 
make  way  for  an  utterly  unknown  child,  who  by 
some  miracle  has  got  the  whole  functionaries  of 
imperial  government,  both  civil  and  military,  into 
his  own  hands  in  less  than  a  couple  of  hours, 
without  even  the  use  of  the  field  telegraph. 

From  Antioch,  Macrinus  went  on  horseback  to 
Aegae  in  Cilicia,  and  thence  by  the  public  post 
through  Cappadocia,  Galatia,  and  Bithynia,  with 
great  expedition,  giving  out  that  he  was  a  mes- 
senger from  the  Emperor  Macrinus.  He  intended 
to  cross  into  Europe  by  way  of  Eribolus,  and  thus 
to  avoid  Nicomedia,  where  the  Governor  Caecilius 
Aristo  was  seeking  his  life  to  take  it  from  him,  in 
favour  of  the  new  Emperor.  The  distance  that 
Macrinus  travelled  was,  so  we  learn  from  the  ItiJicra 
Hierosolymitana,  750  Roman  miles,  covering  in  his 
haste,  so  Friedlander  thinks,  about  130  Roman 
miles  per  diem,  which  would  bring  him  to  Eribolus 

74  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

(barring  accidents,  of  course)  about  15th  June. 
Thence,  we  are  told,  he  took  shipping  and  attempted 
to  reach  Byzantium  ;  but  the  battle  was  not  to  the 
strong  ;  the  attempt  was  rendered  abortive  by  the 
avenging  deity  in  the  shape  of  a  great  north-west 
wind,  which  threw  him  back  upon  the  coast  near 
Chalcedon.  There  the  well-informed  agents  of  the 
Emperor  Antoninus  came  up  with  him,  and  dis- 
covered his  whereabouts  by  means  of  Macrinus' 
imperial  procurator,  to  whom,  being  short  of  funds, 
the  Moor  had  foolishly  sent  in  his  extremity. 

The  discovery  was  tragic ;  the  lord  of  the  world, 
the  man  whose  sceptre  threatened  the  Gods  and 
commanded  the  sun,  was  discovered  by  his  pursuers 
hidden  in  a  small  house  on  the  outskirts  of  Chal- 
cedon, trembling  with  a  fever  and  fright,  brought 
on  by  the  fatigues  and  emotions  of  his  hurried 
journey.  He  was  promptly  put  into  a  chariot  and 
taken  back  towards  Antioch  by  his  captor  Aurelius 
Celsus.  By  the  time  the  party  reached  Cappadocia 
news  was  brought  that  Epagathos  had  failed  in  his 
mission,  and  that  Diadumenianus  was  killed,  which 
so  utterly  upset  the  poor  gentleman  that  he  deliber- 
ately threw  himself  from  his  chariot,  in  the  hope  of 
ending  his  disappointed  existence  and  escaping  a 
worse  fate.  In  so  doing  he  broke  his  collar-bone 
instead  of  his  neck.  There  was  certainly  no  l^ick 
for  Macrinus  till  he  reached  Archelais,  about  75 
miles  from  the  frontier  of  Cappadocia,  when,  pre- 
sumably acting  under  fresh  orders,  the  Centurion 
ordered  him  to  be  put  to  death,  a  merciful  release 
from  the  sufferings  which  his  stupidity  and  incapacity 


had  brought  upon  him.  The  date  is  not  known, 
though  it  was  in  all  probability  some  time  before 
the  end  of  the  month  of  June.  Dion  allots  fourteen 
months  less  three  days  to  his  tenure  of  power, 
counting  to  the  day  of  the  battle. 

As  far  as  we  know,  he  left  neither  friends, 
enemies,  monuments  (except  the  arch  at  Tana  in 
Algeria,  erected  by  his  compatriots),  children,  nor 
evils  to  live  after  him.  Certainly  he  meant  well,  and 
acted  in  a  manner  more  futile  and  less  imperial  than 
any  of  his  predecessors.  There  was  no  attempt  of 
any  sort  made  to  revive  his  memory;  no  resuscitation 
of  any  party  in  favour  of  his  rule ;  no  enthusiasm  or 
even  loyalty  betrayed  towards  him  from  the  moment 
that  Antonine  claimed  the  throne.  Antonine's 
campaign,  on  the  contrary,  was  one  triumphal  pro- 
cession, feebly  resisted  by  a  counter-march  on  the 
part  of  the  reigning  Emperor;  after  which  time, 
and  without  even  waiting  to  hear  of  their  Emperor's 
death  or  abdication,  the  whole  governmental  world 
settles  down  without  the  least  suspicion  of  disloyalty 
under  the  headship  of  Antonine.  Nothing  is  dis- 
organised. In  less  than  half  a  day  everything  is 
absolutely  at  his  disposal  throughout  the  empire, 
and  no  further  question  is  asked  as  to  where  the 
late  Emperor  may  be.  Travel  quickly  as  he  will, 
Macrinus  was  not  able  to  take  from  men's  minds 
what  must  have  been  a  foregone  conclusion,  namely, 
that  he  was  doomed,  and  another  was  reigning  in 
his  stead.  It  was  an  obvious  case  of  a  usurper 
about  whom  no  one  cares  sufficiently  to  make 
further  inquiries. 

76  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS        chap,  m 

The  Roman  world  had  wearied  of  Macrinus  and 
his  pretensions,  just  as  it  had  wearied  of  Claudius  ; 
both  were  fantastic,  vacillating,  abstracted,  and 
cowardly  tyrants,  declaring  themselves  to  be  of  the 
opinion  of  those  who  were  right,  and  announcing 
that  they  would  give  judgment  in  favour  of  those 
whose  reasons  appeared  the  best.  Slipshod  and 
tattered  they  both  went  through  life ;  Emperors 
whom  no  one  obeyed  and  at  whom  every  one 
jeered  ;  men  who,  when  they  heard  that  conspirators 
were  abroad,  were  not  indignant,  but  merely 
frightened.  Perhaps  it  was  the  purple  which  had 
driven  so  many  Emperors  mad,  that  made  Macrinus 
an  idiot ;  certainly  he  acted  like  one,  and  made  way 
for  yet  another  Phaeton  for  the  universe :  a  prince 
for  whose  sovereignty  the  world  was  too  small,  as 
Tiberius  had  remarked  of  his  nephew  Caius,  nick- 
named  Caligula,   the    man   without   whom    neither 

"•  Nero,  Domitian,  Commodus,  Caracalla,  or  Elaga- 
balus  could  have  existed.  The  lives  of  all  are 
horrible,  yet  analyse  the  horrible  and  you  find  the 
sublime.  The  valleys  have  their  imbeciles,  from  the 
mountains  poets  and  madmen  come.      Elagabalus 

^  was  both,  sceptred  at  that,  and  with  a  sceptre  that 
could  lash  the  earth,  threaten  the  sky,  beckon 
planets,  and  ravish  the  divinity  of  the  divine. 



Saluted  by  the  whole  army  on  the  evening  of  8th 
June  218,  the  young  Emperor.  Marcus  Aurelius 
Antoninus,  set  out  to  cover  the  20  odd  miles  which 
separated  Immae  from  Antioch,  the  Eastern  capital. 
Next  morning,  we  are  told  by  Dion,  he  entered  the 
city  amidst  the  customary  rejoicings.  It  had  been  a 
principle  with  the  late  Caracalla  to  give  conquered 
cities  over  to  the  rapacity  of  the  soldiers,  and  here 
the  conquering  host  imagined,  nay,  strongly  urged, 
that  this  laudable  custom  should  be  revived,  but  the 
present  Antonine  saw  no  reason  for  any  such  pro- 
ceeding. With  a  singular  lack  of  subservience, 
which  is,  we  are  told,  the  first  mark  of  a  born  sove- 
reign, he  informed  them  that  a  regular  toll  would 
be  taken  from  the  citizens  instead,  and  each  man 
paid  a  sum  of  500  drachmae  from  the  imperial 
exchequer  ;  he  thus  satisfied  their  natural  expecta- 
tion of  reward,  and  promised  the  population  that  no 
pillage  would  take  place  ;  that,  on  the  other  hand, 
the  ordinary  contributions  to  the  exchequer  (the 
marks   of  settled   government   in    times    of  peace) 



were  sufficient,  while  pillage  would  suggest  the  wars 
and  disturbances  which  were  now  over. 

It  was  certainly  a  bold  act,  this  crossing  the 
will  of  the  soldiers  at  the  very  outset,  too  bold  for 
either  a  woman  or  a  boy  of  fourteen  to  have  devised  ; 
but  Antonine  intended  to  make  that  city  his  tempor- 
ary capital,  and  had  in  consequence  more  than 
soldiers  to  conciliate. 

As  to  the  question  of  principal  adviser  and  chief 
minister,  we  have  a  most  difficult  matter  to  face  from 
the  outset.  Lampridius  asserts  that  Soaemias  was 
in  the  position  of  absolute  director  of  the  Emperor 
and  his  government,  an  assertion  utterly  ludicrous 
to  any  one  who  understands  that  lady's  character, 
as  Lampridius  himself  has  expounded  it.  Soaemias 
would  have  been,  psychologically  speaking,  quite 
incapable  of  directing  any  operations  other  than 
those  of  the  nuptial  couch  ;  though  she  may  have 
thought  out  some  of  the  details  of  costume,  etiquette, 
and  precedence  which  later  fell  to  her  share  as 
president  of  the  Senate  on  the  Quirinal ;  besides 
which,  her  name  always  follows  that  of  Maesa  on 
inscriptions  and  records  where  the  two  names  appear 
together,  Herodian,  on  the  other  hand,  states  that 
Maesa  was  the  ruling  spirit,  which  is  much  more 
likely.  Maesa's  character  is  very  different,  if  less 
attractive ;  crafty,  cunning,  able,  and  persistent,  she 
had  not  schemed,  fought,  and  expended  her  treasure 
except  for  her  own  ultimate  good,  and  to  her  the 
ultimate  good  was  the  possession  of  power  and 
authority.  Besides  which,  she  was  fully  au  fait  with 
all   governmental  procedure  in  Rome,  and  was,   in 

IV        THE  WINTER  AT  NICOMEDIA       79 

consequence,  the  fit  and  proper  person  to  direct  the 
immediate  poh'cy. 

But  there  was  much  to  temper  her  power.  There 
was  an  element  which  even  she,  far-sighted  as  she 
was,  had  forgotten,  and  left  out  of  count,  namely,  the 
Emperor  himself  From  the  moment  of  his  eleva- 
tion he  showed  that  he  had  a  mind  and  will  of  his  own ; 
probably  he  had  possessed  them  all  along,  but  his 
grandmother  had  never  thought  that  they  would  get 
in  her  way  till  she  was  brought  face  to  face  with  them. 

By  nature  Bassianus  was  gentle  and  affectionate, 
with  no  other  passions  than  an  innocent  fanaticism 
for  the  cult  of  the  only  God,  and  a  hereditary  tem- 
perament, which  we  know  to-day  is  less  of  a  vice 
than  a  perversion  ;  a  temperament  which  Suetonius 
assures  us  he  shared  with  the  majority  of  his  pre- 
decessors, and  Dion  says  was  common  amongst  the 
Syrian  clergy.  Caracalla  had,  innate  in  his  being, 
jealousy,  hatred,  and  revenge.  Bassianus  hated 
no  one  ;  he  was,  in  fact,  only  too  prone  to  love  his 
fellows,  but,  like  Caracalla,  he  had  a  strong  and 
imperious  will.  He  had  no  sooner  grasped  the 
limitless  possibilities  of  the  imperial  position  than 
vertigo  seems  to  have  overtaken  him.  But  fancy 
the  position  !  On  a  peak  piercing  the  heavens, 
shadowing  the  earth,  a  precipice  on  either  side,  the 
young  Emperors  of  Old  Rome  stood.  Did  they  look 
below,  they  could  scarce  see  the  world.  From  above, 
delirium  came  ;  while  the  horizon,  though  it  hemmed 
the  limits  of  their  vision,  could  not  mark  the  frontiers 
of  their  dream.  In  addition,  there  was  the  exaltation 
that  altitudes  produce. 



The  Emperor  was  alone ;  henceforward  his  will 
was  unopposed.  His  grandmother  tried  to  make 
herself  felt ;  on  each  occasion  she  had  to  give  way, 
to  retire  beaten,  till  one  can  well  imagine  that  lady's 
despair  at  the  unforeseen  development, — almost 
anticipate  the  final  resolve  of  that  crafty  old  sinner, 
to  rid  herself  of  the  grandson  whom  she  had  set 
up,  fondly  imagining  him  her  mere  puppet.  Still, 
advisers  were  necessary.  From  what  we  can  see  of 
the  available  men  (and  a  man  would  certainly  be 
Antonine's  choice)  there  is  but  one  for  whom  con- 
sistently through  his  life  the  Emperor  had  respect, 
namely,  Eutychianus.  He  had,  so  Dion  states,  con- 
ceived the  plot  of  the  proclamation,  and  carried  it  out 
by  himself,  while  the  women  were  still  unconscious 
of  what  was  going  forward.  He  was  immediately 
made  Praetorian  Praefect,  later  he  was  Consul,  and 
twice  City  Praefect,  which  frequent  recurrence  of 
office,  being  unusual  in  one  person,  is  put  down  by 
Dion  as  a  gross  breach  of  the  constitution — where  no 
constitution  existed  except  the  imperial  will.  The 
sneer  of  Xiphilinus  at  his  buffooneries  is  obviously 
an  untruth,  considering  the  fact  that  we  know  of  him 
as  a  soldier  as  far  back  as  Commodus'  reign.  If  he 
had  been  a  mere  nonentity  or  a  worthless  person,  it 
is  incredible  that,  in  the  proscriptions  and  murders 
that  followed  that  of  Antonine,  Eutychianus  should 
have  been  reappointed  to  the  office  of  Praefect  of 
Rome  for  at  least  the  ensuing  year.  Taking  all  the 
evidence  into  consideration,  it  is  probable  that  from 
the  outset  the  soldier  Eutychianus  was  chief  minister 
and  director  of  the  government,  and  as  such  sup- 

IV        THE  WINTER  AT  NICOMEDIA       8i 

ported  Antonine  against  his  grandmother.  To  him 
therefore,  as  well  as  to  Maesa,  may  be  attributed 
much  of  the  sane  common -sense  work  that  was 
done  ;  work  which,  especially  in  the  dealings  with 
the  soldiers,  shows  a  man's  hand,  a  soldier's  touch, 
indeed  that  of  a  soldier  who  knows,  by  reason  of 
his  position,  just  how  far  he  can  go. 

The  first  recorded  act  of  the  new  government 
was  to  announce  to  the  Roman  Fathers  the 
restoration  of  the  house  of  Antonine.  Now  the 
Senate  of  the  Roman  people  was  in  no  very 
pleasant  position,  considering  the  possibilities  and 
the  knowledge  that  the  imperial  house  had  not  a 
few  grudges  to  settle  with  their  august  assembly. 
Rome,  as  we  know  from  the  record  of  the  Arval 
Brothers'  meeting  held  on  30th  May,  was  expecting 
some  announcement  almost  daily,  either  of  the 
accession  or  extirpation  of  the  late  imperial  con- 
nection. The  last  communication  from  the  East 
had  been  signed  by  Macrinus.  It  was  a  distracted 
and  illiterate  epistle  announcing  the  elevation  of  his 
small  son  to  the  empire,  and  the  speedy  fall  of  the 
pseudo-Antonine.  In  all  probability  the  news  which 
had  reached  the  Arval  Brothers  was  common  pro- 
perty, and  the  Senate  was  not  so  sure  of  the  result  of 
the  revolt  as  Macrinus  would  have  liked  them  to  be. 
The  main  cause  for  anxiety  was  their  answer,  which 
was  probably  still  on  its  way  to  Macrinus  :  a  dutiful 
response  to  his  demand — made  about  20th  April  — 
that  the  Antonine  family  should  be  proscribed  and 
declared  enemies  to  the  state.  With  their  usual 
subservience,  the  Conscript  Fathers  had  decreed  as 



desired,  had  even  gone  out  of  their  way  to  level 
invectives  and  ordures  against  the  memory  of  the 
house  of  Severus,  and  this  with  a  hearty  good- 
will that  showed  their  genuineness. 

Now,  if  these  tactless  epistles,  as  the  Fathers 
feared,  had  reached  Antioch  either  just  before  or 
just  after  the  new  monarch's  arrival,  they  were 
likely  to  cause  an  infinity  of  trouble,  especially  if 
they  fell  into  the  wrong  hands,  which,  as  luck  would 
have  it,  they  promptly  did.  This  circumstance  quite 
decided  Elagabalus  on  the  amount  of  respect 
which  it  was  necessary  to  pay  to  the  "  Slaves  in 
Togas "  either  in  his  own  or  in  any  other  state. 
Judge  of  their  apprehensions  when  an  answer  to 
their  obedient  proscriptions  was  brought  into  the 
Senate  House,  within  the  first  fortnight  of  July,  if 
not  earlier,  by  a  herald  declaring  his  mission  from 
the  august  Emperor,  Marcus  Aurelius  Antoninus, 
Antoninus'  son,  Severus'  grandson,  Pius  and 
Happy,  Tribune  and  Proconsul,  without  so  much 
as  by  your  leave  or  with  your  leave  from  the 
assembled  Fathers.  (Dion  omits  the  title  of  Consul, 
despite  the  fact  that  there  are  inscriptions  which  call 
Antonine  Consul  at  that  date.)  Think  how  willingly 
now  the  Fathers  would  have  given  their  right  hands 
to  repair  the  egregious  mistake  they  had  just  made. 
They  had  been  too  precipitate,  too  hurried  alto- 
gether, and  they  knew  from  past  experience  that 
the  house  of  Antonine  did  not  visit  such  mistakes 
in  a  chastened  spirit. 

At  last  the  imperial  message  was  laid  before  the 
house.     It  was  as   though  the  Gods  had  been  for 

IV        THE  WINTER  AT  NICOMEDIA       83 

once  propitious  to  human  stupidity.  The  letter  con- 
tained gracious  words,  "  dropping  as  the  gentle  dew 
from  heaven."  Was  it  a  mere  ruse,  such  as  former 
Antonines  had  played,  or  was  it  in  reality  the  herald 
of  a  new  world  to  come  ?  Surely  yes,  for  it  promised 
amnesty,  on  the  word  of  the  Emperor,  to  the  Senate 
and  people  of  Rome,  for  all  words,  acts,  and  pro- 
scriptions formerly  promulgated  against  the  divine 
Caesar,  by  command  of  the  usurping  murderer 
Macrinus  ;  to  whom  the  same  Senate  and  people 
were  commanded  to  give  neither  help  nor  assist- 
ance, but  rather  to  condemn  and  execrate,  in  the 
precise  terms  they  had  so  recently  applied  to  the 
divine  Emperor  now  happily  reigning.  For  was 
he  not  an  enemy  to  the  state  who  had  not  only 
murdered  his  master,  whom  he  had  been  appointed 
to  guard,  but  also  in  that  he,  who  was  neither 
Senator  nor  otherwise  worthy,  had  pretended  to 
Empire,  being  a  mere  slave  and  gladiator,  whom 
Caracalla  had  raised  to  the  rank  of  Praetorian 
Praefect  ? 

There  was  some  more  biting  sarcasm  on  the 
ease  with  which  that  august  body  had  accepted  the 
pretensions  of  the  ex-slave  without  question,  and 
had  been  persuaded  to  confirm  him  in  the  position 
of  his  murdered  master.  For  himself,  Antonine 
makes  the  mere  announcement  of  his  succession, 
much  as  Macrinus  had  done  on  the  occasion  of  his 
son's  elevation,  with  the  obvious  implication  that  the 
Fathers  will  confirm  the  accomplished  facts  with  as 
little  delay  as  is  compatible  with  the  usual  decencies. 
He  tells  them  that  to  err  is  human,  but  Antonine, 

84  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

mirabile  dictu,  will  forgive,  on  the  conditions 
mentioned,  of  course  ;  which  conditions  taken  as 
fulfilled,  the  Emperor  continues  with  an  explana- 
tion of  the  happy  auguries  for  the  commencement 
of  his  reign.  He  was  come,  he  said,  a  second 
Augustus  ;  like  Augustus  he  was  eighteen  years 
of  age  (an  obvious  lie,  and  they  knew  it,  but  an 
Emperor  of  fourteen  did  not  sound  well) ;  like 
Augustus  his  reign  started  with  a  victory  which 
revenged  the  murder  of  his  father,  and  the  success, 
with  which  both  he  and  Augustus  had  met,  was  a 
good  omen  for  the  people,  who  might  expect  great 
things  from  a  prince  who  proposed  to  unite  the 
wisdom  of  Augustus  with  that  of  the  philosopher 
Marcus  Aurelius,  and  to  rule  after  these  truly  admir- 
able examples.  Another  letter  to  the  soldiers  was 
delivered  at  the  same  time,  which  contained  extracts 
from  Macrinus'  correspondence  with  Marius  Max- 
imus,  Praefect  of  the  City.  In  this  the  vacillating 
duplicity  of  the  late  Macrinus  and  his  opinion  of 
the  army  generally  was  made  the  most  of,  his 
innate  civilian  distrust  of  the  military  held  up  to 
ridicule  and  scorn. 

To  crown  these  admirable  productions  of  literary 
persuasiveness  was  a  promise  to  the  soldiers  of 
their  immediate  return  to  the  privileges  and  con- 
ditions existent  under  Caracalla  in  the  case  of  each 
and  several  of  the  Emperor's  beloved  comrades. 
They  were  certainly  admirable  letters,  designed 
to  rejoice  the  hearts  of  both  guards  and  people, 
and  to  leave  the  Senate  in  pleasurable  anticipation 
of  favours  to  come,  if  they  took  immediate  advan- 

IV        THE  WINTER  AT  NICOMEDIA       85 

tage  of  the  opportunity  now  given  them  to  change 
their  minds, — otherwise — well,  the  more  stringent 
methods  of  Augustus  might  have  to  be  employed, 
and  orders  were  sent  to  Pollio,  Consul  Suffectus, 
to  this  effect.  Undoubtedly  the  Fathers  made  up 
their  minds  with  admirable  promptitude — they  do 
not  seem  to  have  made  a  single  inquiry  as  to  the 
fate  of  the  Moor  who  was  nominally  reigning  Em- 
peror. Never  was  their  voice  more  willingly  given; 
public  thanksgivings  were  decreed  for  the  restora- 
tion of  the  house  of  Antonine,  and  the  acts  of  an 
Emperor  who  had  treated  them  as  so  much  garden 
refuse  were  lauded  most  fulsomely.  Proscription 
was  the  lot  of  the  "  Tyrant  and  Murderer,"  who  had 
usurped  the  imperial  styles,  titles,  and  addresses  ; 
in  fact  anything  that  lay  in  their  power  to  oblige 
with  they  were  most  happy  to  offer ;  more  than 
he  had  ever  thought  of  asking  the  Fathers  hastened 
to  lay  at  the  feet  of  the  child  whose  origin,  whose 
sentiments,  whose  feminine  beauty,  whose  very 
female  relatives  breathed  divinity  from  every  pore. 
There  is  no  better  example  of  the  vast  com- 
prehensiveness of  mind  possessed  by  bodies  of 
men  fulfilling  the  functions  which  Aristotle  calls 
the  "  collective  wisdom  of  the  many,"  than  this 
instance  of  the  wonderful  facility  with  which  they 
are  able  to  see  all  points  of  view  in  succession, 
especially  the  more  advantageous.  Only  a  few 
short  weeks  back  the  infallible  wisdom  had  decreed 
that  the  new  deities  were  enemies  to  the  state.  Now 
they  knew  that  the  existence  of  these  very  enemies 
was  only  another  way  of  stating  the  life  and  being 

86  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

of  the  state  itself.  Their  one  regret  was  that  they 
had  not  known  it  sooner  ;  as  it  was,  they  were 
forced  to  admit  that,  if  the  well-bred  can  con- 
tradict other  people,  the  wise  must  contradict 

Of  course  the  young  Emperor  was  pleased  with 
the  transports  of  loyalty  with  which  Rome  greeted 
his  accession  ;  Maesa  and  Soaemias  at  the  joint 
title  of  Augusta  which  the  Emperor  and  Senate 
conferred  upon  them ;  but  for  precaution's  sake, 
Pollio  might  as  well  keep  the  soldiers  on  the  qui 
vive,  as  a  sort  of  reminder  to  the  Conscript 
Fathers  that  it  would  be  as  well  to  take  no  more 
comprehensive  views  of  the  circumstances  just  at 
present,  especially  as  the  Emperor  had  no  intention 
of  proceeding  to  Rome  just  yet.  But  it  was  not 
wise  to  talk,  and  the  Fathers  knew  it ;  they  were 
content,  for  the  present,  to  praise  the  Gods  for  their 
safety,  and  to  register  any  decrees  which  august 
personages  might  see  fit  to  send  for  their  confirma- 
tion, otherwise  they  decided  to  keep  their  mouths 
tightly  closed  as  to  the  inner  thoughts  of  the  heart. 

The  announcement  of  his  succession  having  been 
posted  to  Rome,  and  agents  dispatched  to  secure 
the  person  of  the  ex-Emperor,  Antonine  seems 
to  have  turned  his  attention  to  rewards  and  the 
management  of  the  army.  As  was  quite  natural, 
the  first  offices  were  bestowed  on  Eutychianus,  the 
man  whom  we  have  just  mentioned.  In  all  prob- 
ability it  was  to  him  that  the  success  at  Immae 
was  actually  due  ;  he  was  the  soldier,  the  trained 
leader,  while    Gannys,   the    boy's    tutor,  to    whom 


Xiphilinus  ascribes  the  victory,  was  admittedly  an 
effete  and  uxorious  leman  of  both  Soaemias  and 
Maesa,  who  could  never  have  been  a  real  leader  of 
men,  even  though  he  were  personally  popular  with 
the  troops,  as  the  Valesian  Fragment  states.  It 
is  obvious  that  the  work  and  abilities  of  the  two 
men  (Eutychianus  and  Gannys)  have  got  muddled. 
Xiphilinus(78.3 1. 1 )  ascribes  the  plot  to  Eutychianus  ; 
later  (79.6),  still  presumably  quoting  Dion,  he  states 
that  Gannys  was  solely  responsible  for  the  whole 
plot.  Dion  (Frag.  Vales.)  states  that  Eutychianus 
had  contrived  the  whole  revolution.  Clearly  some 
scribe  has  erred  in  the  insertion  of  names,  or 
Xiphilinus  is  not  a  trustworthy  abbreviator.  If  we 
can  judge  by  results,  we  see  that  Eutychianus 
was  immediately  appointed  Praefect  of  the  Prae- 
torian Guard  in  the  room  of  Ulpius  Julianus, 
deceased,  while  Gannys,  the  personal  favourite  of 
the  Emperor  and  his  women,  got  no  sort  of  dis- 
tinction. Eutychianus'  elevation  was  not  altogether 
popular.  Xiphilinus  considered  that  he  had  no 
right  to  the  post  (though  he  had  just  remarked 
that  he  alone  set  the  Emperor  on  the  throne),  and 
that  the  frequency  with  which  he  was  reappointed 
was  actually  a  constitutional  scandal ;  but  he  cer- 
tainly did  good  and  useful  work  throughout  his 
tenure  of  office. 

The  first  move  was  to  rectify  the  error  of 
Macrinus  in  keeping  troops  out  in  the  field  un- 
necessarily. The  new  government  sent  back  to  their 
quarters  all  the  soldiers  gathered  for  the  Parthian 
war  by  Caracalla,  and  that  with  expedition.     There 

88  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

are  various  inscriptions  at  Lambesa,  in  Pannonia,  and 
other  places  which  testify  to  this,  while  at  Mogun- 
tiacum  in  Upper  Germany  there  is  a  record  of  the 
arrival  of  a  legion  as  early  as  23rd  July  218,  and 
which,  by  the  way,  gives  the  Emperor  the  title  of 
Consul,  as  well  as  the  other  imperial  addresses  which 
Dion  has  mentioned  that  he  assumed  as  of  right. 

This  dismissal  of  the  soldiers  was  a  prudent 
measure.  It  not  only  pleased  them,  and  gave  them 
something  to  do  besides  stirring  up  strife,  but  also 
made  it  possible  to  preserve  discipline  without 
resorting  to  the  enormous  gifts  which  had  im- 
poverished the  government  heretofore.  This  may 
certainly  be  traced  to  Eutychianus'  influence  rather 
than  to  that  of  Maesa,  who  would  probably  have 
preferred  to  keep  the  soldiers  a  little  longer,  in 
order  to  see  how  things  settled  down  ;  whereas  the 
troops  must  have  been  sent  back  to  their  quarters 
the  very  week  of  the  battle,  and  before  Macrinus' 
death,  in  order  to  have  arrived  in  Upper  Ger- 
many by  23rd  July.  This  action,  to  v/homsoever 
attributable,  shows  the  perfect  confidence  of  the  new 
government  in  its  own  stability  from  the  very  outset. 
It  was  also  a  bold  measure,  and  a  measure  which 
could  only  have  been  taken  by  a  general  who  knew 
his  troops,  who  to  keep  and  with  whom  to  dispense, 
because  trouble  was  sure  to  arise  through  ambition 
and  similar  causes. 

Dion  tells  us  of  at  least  two  notables  who 
thought  themselves  capax  imperii,  because  they 
imagined  that  the  state  was  disturbed,  the  occasion 
propitious.     One  was  Verus,  or  Severus,  tribune  of 

IV        THE  WINTER  AT  NICOMEDIA       89 

the  third  Gallic,  another  Gellius  Maximus,  tribune 
of  the  fourth  Scythian  Legion  ;  both  were  Senators 
who  aspired  to  empire  and  found  futurity.  The 
same  historian  mentions  three  others,  insignificant 
persons ;  one  the  son  of  a  centurion  in  the  third 
Gallic  Legion  (which  legion,  by  the  way,  on  account 
of  these  two  bids  for  notoriety,  was  practically  dis- 
banded, the  men  being  transferred  to  the  third 
Augustan  Legion).  Another  was  a  clothier ;  the 
third  a  mere  private  person,  whose  temerity  led  him 
to  an  attempt,  the  object  of  which  was  to  subvert  the 
fleet  stationed  at  Cyzicus  during  the  winter  of  21 8- 
219,  presumably  for  the  protection  of  the  Emperor 
when  he  arrived  at  Nicomedia.  The  attempts  of 
these  persons  met  with  the  reward  due  to  folly,  and 
did  but  strengthen  the  position  of  the  Emperor  by 
giving  him  an  excuse  to  put  to  death  others,  whose 
complicity  or  sympathy  pointed  them  out  as  perilous 
to  the  state.  They  were  all  friends  of  Macrinus, 
says  Wotton,  who  were  making  difficulties  for  the 
new  government.  All  authorities  state  very  clearly 
that  there  was  no  man  who  suffered  for  any  assist- 
ance given  to  Macrinus ;  neither  was  there  any 
inquisition  made  after  enemies  or  neutrals.  The 
heads  of  the  opposition  party  were  merely  put  to 
death  when  they  refused  to  acknowledge  the  fait 
accovipli\  when  they  did  so  they  were  confirmed  in 
their  offices  as  a  matter  of  course.  The  number  put 
to  death,  besides  the  five  aspirants  to  the  imperial 
position,  is  placed  by  Dion  at  eight — no  enormous 
holocaust,  when  one  thinks  of  the  legions  of  imperial 
servants    confirmed    in    their    offices.     The    names 


include  Julianus  Nestor,  Captain  of  the  Guards  to 
the  late  Emperor;  Fabius  Agrippinus,  Governor 
of  Syria ;  Pica  Caerianus,  Governor  of  Arabia ; 
Aelius  Decius  Triccianus,  a  man  of  mean  origin, 
whose  death  the  2nd  Parthian  Legion  demanded 
on  account  of  his  cruelty  towards  them  ;  Castinus, 
a  friend  and  officer  of  Macrinus ;  Claudius  Attalus, 
Lieutenant-Governor  of  Cyprus,  a  man  who  had 
been  expelled  from  the  Senate  by  Severus  and 
stupidly  readmitted  by  Caracalla.  It  was  not  clear 
on  what  count  this  man  actually  suffered,  and  in 
consequence  the  story  of  an  enmity  between  him  and 
Eutychianus,  during  the  campaign  in  Thrace — when 
he  is  said  to  have  cashiered  the  new  Praefect  of  the 
Praetorian  Guards — is  regarded  as  sufficient  reason 
for  saying  that  Eutychianus  demanded  his  death. 

During  this  same  winter  there  was  another  pre- 
tender to  kingship,  helped  by  another  governor  friend 
of  Macrinus,  a  certain  Senator  Valerianus  Paetus. 
This  man's  crime  lay  in  the  fact  that,  after  the 
imperial  custom,  he  had  coined  gold  pieces  bearing 
his  own  image  and  superscription,  and  distributed 
these  amongst  the  people  of  Cappadocia  and  Galatia, 
which  was  considered  tantamount  to  a  declaration  of 
imperial  proclamation.  His  defence,  when  appre- 
hended, was  that  the  medals  were  actually  intended 
for  the  adornment  of  his  mistresses.  The  court 
found,  however,  that  no  sane  man  could  reasonably 
possess  this  luxury  in  sufficient  numbers  to  justify 
the  coining  of  the  amount  of  medals  discovered  ; 
besides  which,  his  accomplice  Sylla,  Governor  of 
Cappadocia,  who  had  just  before   been   tampering 

IV        THE  WINTER  AT  NICOMEDIA       91 

with  the  loyalty  of  the  Gallic  Legions,  on  their  way 
through  Bithynia,  was  mixed  up  in  the  plot  quite 
inextricably.  So  the  judgment  given  was,  "guilty 
of  usurping  imperial  functions,  and  aspiring  to 
empire  "  ;  rather  a  larger  count,  all  considered,  than 
the  kindred  count  of  "  coining,"  which  merited  death 
in  this  enlightened  and  humane  country  up  to  the 
year  of  grace  1832.  Throughout  the  trials  we  are 
given  to  infer  that  the  usual  course  of  judicial 
procedure  was  adhered  to  ;  the  condemnation  was 
after  trial  and  just  cause  found  ;  while  those  who 
know  anything  of  Roman  legal  procedure  are  aware 
that  every  chance  was  given  to  the  accused,  and 
that  the  burden  of  proof  lay  on  the  accuser. 

But  to  return  to  the  chronological  arrangement 
of  the  events  during  this  sojourn  in  the  East.  As 
we  have  said,  on  9th  June  218  Antonine  entered 
Antioch  amidst  the  applause  of  the  world.  As  far 
as  we  can  judge  from  Herodian's  statement,  he  must 
have  stayed  there  for  some  months.  The  pressure 
of  immediate  government  business  would  be  enor- 
mous, the  various  legates  had  to  be  sent  forth,  the 
submission  of  governors  received,  and  the  army  ques- 
tion settled,  along  with  other  outstanding  difficulties, 
and  in  consequence  the  season  was  far  advanced, 
says  Herodian,  when  the  imperial  family  reached 
Nicomedia,  too  late  for  them  to  attempt  the  cross- 
ing into  Europe.  Besides  the  business  delays, 
much  time  must  have  been  wasted  by  the  Emperor's 
determination  to  take  the  image  of  the  Great  God 
with  him,  and  wherever  he  should  reign,  there  to  set 
up  the  temple  of  that  supreme  ineffable  Deity. 

92  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

Duruy  states  that  during  his  residence  at  Antioch, 
or  on  the  journey  across  Asia  Minor,  the  Emperor 
reconsecrated  to  Elagabal  the  temple  of  Faustina 
which  Marcus  Aurelius  had  erected  on  Mount 
Taurus.  If  this  be  so,  it  could  only  have  been  as 
a  temporary  resting-place.  The  Deity,  we  are 
assured,  had  no  settled  home  after  leaving  Emesa 
until  the  great  temple  or  Eliogabalium  was  erected 
on  the  Palatine.  There  was  one  person  to  whom 
these  delays  appeared  as  highly  unnecessary,  namely, 
the  Dowager  Empress  Julia  Maesa. 

In  the  full  flush  of  her  newly  acquired  position, 
she  had  every  intention  of  wintering  in  the  capital. 
It  was  much  more  to  her  liking  than  the  provincial 
life  to  which  the  late  Emperor  had  relegated  her. 
In  consequence  of  this  intention,  we  are  led  to 
infer  that  the  lady  gave  orders.  Here  the  Emperor 
showed  his  paternity.  Maesa  may  not  have  fully 
credited  her  own  assertion  before,  henceforward 
she  was  called  upon  to  believe  it  whether  she 
would  or  no.  Her  grandson,  perhaps  merely  self- 
willed,  perhaps  wishing  to  settle  business,  certainly 
intending  to  stay  in  the  voluptuous  East,  told 
the  lady  to  be  quiet,  and  revoked  the  orders. 
She  tried  reasoning,  but  was  told  that  it  wearied 
his  youthful  augustitude.  She  persisted  further, 
and  then  thought  that  she  had  triumphed,  because 
the  Emperor,  with  true  Antonine  guile,  packed  up 
and  commanded  the  Court  to  set  out  for  Rome.  Not 
that  he  had  the  slightest  intention  of  facing  the 
Tramontana,  possibly  even  snow,  but  it  looked 
gracious,    and    many    things    might    be    done    en 

IV        THE  WINTER  AT  NICOMEDIA       93 

route.  For  many  reasons  the  journey  was  slow  and 
difficult ;  the  dignity  of  the  God  had  to  be  con- 
sidered ;  the  procession  across  Asia  would  take  some 
weeks.  We  have  no  idea  as  to  the  route  taken, 
though  Roerth  has  informed  us  of  an  inscription 
from  Prusias,  where,  he  says,  the  Emperor  stayed  ; 
if  so,  it  was  probably  his  last  halting-place  before 
Nicomedia,  where  he  had  decided  to  winter  instead 
of  trusting  himself  on  the  billows  of  a  wintry  sea. 
It  was  here  that  Antonine's  imperial  life  actually 
began ;  here,  under  the  eastern  sky  and  surrounded  by 
the  pomp  and  colour  of  the  Orient,  that  the  Emperor 
shaped  his  reign,  and  developed  the  two  main 
features  of  his  life — his  religion  and  his  psychology. 

Before  discussing  either  of  these,  however,  it 
will  be  well  to  sum  up  what  we  know  of  the  work 
done  during  this  winter  spent  in  Asia  Minor. 
According  to  Hydatius'  statement,  drawn  from  the 
Consularia  Constantinopolitana,  Antonine  ordered 
the  records  of  indebtedness  to  the  fiscus  to  be 
burnt,  which  burning  took  thirty  days.  If  the 
story  be  true,  it  was  either  a  foolish  waste  of 
indebtedness  to  the  government,  or  an  acknowledg- 
ment of  the  hopelessness  of  collecting  the  debts, 
though  how  the  new  government  could  have  grasped 
this  fact  so  quickly  is  not  recorded  ;  in  any  case,  it 
was  a  real  bid  for  popularity. 

Much  time  would  also  be  spent  in  the  legal 
proceedings  which  settled  the  fate  of  the  various 
pretenders,  malcontents,  and  traitors.  Again,  the 
consideration  of  grants  to  legions,  fitting  rewards  for 
assistance  given  in  time  of  need,  in  fact  the  thousand 


and  one  things  which  occupy  the  official  mind 
in  the  ordinary  course  of  events,  let  alone  on  the 
restoration  of  a  house  banished  and  proscribed  by 
imperial  predecessors,  had  all  to  be  discussed  and 
would  certainly  take  time.  Cohen  tell  us  of  one  of 
these  measures,  of  which  we  know  nothing  save 
from  the  coins  of  218,  some  of  which  bear  the 
legend  "  Annona  Augusti,"  which  he  says  is  a 
reference  to  some  measure  relative  to  the  grain 
supply,  instituted  for  the  benefit  of  the  people. 

There  was  certainly  enough  to  occupy  every  one's 
attention,  but  it  does  not  quite  account  for  the 
whole  Court  staying  at  Nicomedia  until  May  219. 
Cohen  has,  however,  discovered  a  fact  that  no 
historians  mention,  namely  that  during  this  period 
the  Emperor  was  unwell,  as  some  of  the  coins  of  219 
bear  the  legend  "  Salus  Augusti,"  "  Salus  Antonini 
Augusti,"  which  are  supposed  to  announce  his 
recovery.  If  this  illness  had  happened  after  he 
arrived  in  Rome,  we  should  probably  have  heard 
about  it,  besides  which  it  might  have  been  a  bar  to 
his  matrimony ;  if  in  Nicomedia,  as  Cohen  thinks, 
it  accounts  for  the  length  of  the  stay. 

Business  apart,  of  which  they  say  little  or 
nothing  (facts  have  to  be  culled  from  coins,  in- 
scriptions, reports,  etc.,  not  from  the  pages  of  paid 
traducers),  the  historians  now  begin  their  tirades 
against  the  Emperor's  conduct  and  religion.  The 
obvious  inference  is  that  the  self-willed  boy  was 
already  beginning  to  get  on  somebody's  nerves ; 
on  whose  more  likely  than  on  Maesa's  and  his 
sensitive    aunt    Julia     Mamaea,    who    so    ardently 

IV        THE  WINTER  AT  NICOMEDIA       95 

desired  her  own  son  to  occupy  his  room.     Maesa 
must  have  learned  by  now,  from  her  own  sense  of 
the    fitting    and    the    insistent    representations    of 
Mamaea,  that   she  would   have   been   much  better 
advised,  even  from  her  own  point  of  view,  if  she 
had  set  up  her  younger  grandson   instead   of  this 
headstrong  youth  who  was   flouting   her   at   every 
turn.     Of  course,  it  was  a  question  whether  Alex- 
ianus'  elevation  would  even  have  been  possible,  while 
an  elder  and  a  more  charming  son  of  Caracalla  was 
known  to  the  soldiers,  nevertheless   Maesa  rumin- 
ated and  left  records  which  her  scribes  have  copied. 
"  One  of  the  blackest  of  his  crimes,"  to  quote 
Xiphilinus,  the  monk  of  Trebizond,  the  abbreviator 
of  Dion   Cassius,    "  was   the   worship   of  his   God, 
which  he  introduced  into  Rome  (though  it  was  a 
foreign   God),   whom  he    revered  more   religiously 
than  any  other,  so  far  as  to  set  him  above  Jupiter, 
and  to  get  himself  declared   his  priest   by  decree 
of  the  Senate.      He  was  so  extravagant   as  to  be 
circumcised  and  abstained    from    hogs'   flesh.      He 
appeared  often  in  public   in   the   habit   resembling 
that  of  the  priests  of  Syria,  which  caused  him  to 
be  named  the  Assyrian.      Is  it  necessary  to  men- 
tion those  whom  he  put  to  death  without  reason  ? 
since  he  did  not  spare  his  best  friends,  whose  wise 
and  wholesome  remonstrances  he  could  not  bear." 
These  are  the  sum  total  of  the  great  crimes  which 
during    this    period   Xiphilinus  brings   against   the 
Emperor,  to  which   Herodian  adds  the  accusation 
of  a  disordered   life.      Let   us   examine   the  state- 
ments in  order. 

96  LIFE   OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

"  The  blackest  of  his  crimes  was  the  worship  of 
his  God  and  the  introduction  of  a  foreign  God  into 
Rome."  To  XiphiUnus  the  ecclesiastic,  in  all 
probability  the  worship  of  any  God  except  his 
own  was  a  foul  and  insolent  crime,  best  dealt 
with  by  the  holy  office  of  the  Inquisition,  or  what- 
ever took  the  place  of  that  most  useful  body  (for 
general  purposes  of  extermination)  at  the  period. 
But  at  the  moment  the  knowledge  and  worship 
of  Xiphilinus'  God  was,  for  all  practical  purposes, 
confined  in  Rome  to  washerwomen  or  to  people 
of  their  mental  calibre.  Xiphilinus'  idea  that  Rome 
had  no  foreign  Gods  is  equally  ecclesiastical,  since 
only  the  wilfully  blind  did  not  know  that  Rome  was 
comprehensively,  sceptically  polytheist,  and  that  she 
admitted  and  was  deeply  attached  to  many  similarly 
monotheistic  Eastern  cults,  notably  those  of  Mithra 
and  I  sis.  Why  then  decry  the  w^orship  of  Elaga- 
bal  alone  ?  One  can  see  no  reason  except  the 
exclusiveness  of  that  worship,  the  vast  monotheistic 
ideal  to  which  the  Emperor  had  attached  himself, 
and  which  he  was  minded  to  spread  throughout 
the  length  and  breadth  of  the  empire,  by  every 
fair  means  in  his  power.  It  was  this  idea,  later 
centred  in  Mithraism,  which  was  the  most  deter- 
mined opponent  of  the  similarly  monotheistic  ideal 
of  Xiphilinus,  and,  as  its  strongest  opponent,  caUed 
forth  the  monk's  hatred.  Rome,  however,  had  a 
different  reason  for  disliking  Elagabal.  It  was 
because  he,  like  Jehovah,  dethroned  all  other 
deities.  Rome  would  willingly  have  accepted  the 
Syrian    Deity    amongst    the    lupanar    of  divinities 

IV        THE  WINTER  AT  NICOMEDIA       97 

whose     residence    was    the    Pantheon    and    whose 
rites   were  obscene  ;  but  such  was   not  Antonine's 
scheme,   even  primus   inter  pares  was    impossible. 
Elagabal     was    over    all    supreme ;     even    Jupiter 
Capitolinus,    Jehovah,   and   V^esta   must   serve    the 
one  God.      But   Rome,  whose  atriums  dripped  not 
blood   but  metaphysics,  knew  too  well  the  futility 
of  all   Gods  to  wish  for  any  exclusive  cult  ;   such 
must  fall  to  the  washerwomen,  because  they  were 
unwanted,  unlearned,  barbaric,  and  out  of  date.     But 
the  Emperor  persisted,  which  annoyed  his  grand- 
mother and  other  people  hugely  (she  seems  to  have 
been  generally  annoyed,  however,  so  this  may  be 
taken   as   said  on  other  occasions).     She  had  told 
the  boy  at   Emesa  that  religion  was  only  a  means 
to   the   end,  and    he,   with   his   usual   contrariness, 
had  flouted  her  opinion,  backed  up  by  his  mother, 
and  persisted  in  making  it  the  main  end  of  his  life. 
In  so  doing  he  went  clean  contrary  to  the  Zeitgeist ^ 
and  eventually  suffered  for  his  folly  in  not  hanging 
up  the  fishing-net  when  once  the  fish  was  landed. 
Xiphilinus  makes  another  egregious  mistake  in  de- 
claring that  Antonine  caused  the  Senate  to  declare 
him  priest  of  Elagabal,  since  it  was  the  possession 
of  that  hereditary  rank  or  office  which  had  paved 
the  way  to  empire  at  all.     Again,  we  are  asked  to 
believe  that  to  this  period  belong  his  circumcision 
and  resolve   to   abstain    from   hogs'   flesh,   whereas 
Cheyne  considers  that  these  two  religious  peculiar- 
ities were  common  to  all  Syrian  religious,  as  well  as 
to  the  Egyptian  and  Semitic  peoples,  and  dated  with 
him  in  all  probability  from  the  usual  age  at  which 

98  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

circumcision  was  performed,  the  age  of  puberty, 
which  corresponded  with  his  assumption  of  the  priest- 
hood in  217  or  early  218.  Lampridius,  on  the  other 
hand,  dates  the  commencement  of  these  observances 
as  part  of  the  fanaticism  of  the  later  period  in  Rome  ; 
when  the  Emperor  formulated  his  scheme  for 
one  universal  church,  which  was  to  include  the 
distinctive  rites  of  all  religions,  an  inference  which 
is  not  by  any  means  necessary,  Antonine's  religion 
was  undoubtedly  exclusive  and  fanatical,  though 
even  here  it  was  not  peculiar,  as  the  Christian 
history  gives  us  far  more  pitiable  records  of 
these  vices.  Antonine's  religion  was  never  cruel, 
it  never  persecuted,  whereas  from  the  moment 
that  Christianity  attained  the  ascendancy  she  has 
considered  persecution  her  especial  role.  There 
may  be  joy  in  heaven  over  the  sinner  that  repents  ; 
in  Christendom  the  joy  is  at  his  downfall.  We  can 
fancy  the  difference  with  which  the  monk  would 
have  treated  this  Emperor's  memory  had  he  been 
successful,  had  he  even  had  the  foresight  to  affiliate 
his  church  with  the  kindred  worship  of  Jerusalem, 
to  call  his  Deity  Jehovah  in  the  later  adaptation 
of  the  term,  and  had  then  died  as  other  martyrs  had 
done,  a  victim  to  the  conviction  that  in  him  resided 
the  fulness  of  the  godhead  bodily,  and  further,  in 
the  prosecution  of  a  scheme  for  monotheistic  worship, 
such  as  no  Emperor  had  ever  yet  formulated.  It 
is  a  thousand  pities  for  his  reputation  that  he  did 
not  see  ahead.  In  that  case,  though  he  would  not 
have  formed  a  fourth  part  of  the  ineffable  Trinity, 
his  life  would  at  least  have  become  blameless,  not 

IV        THE  WINTER  AT  NICOMEDIA       99 

only  by  the  baptism  of  blood,  but  also  in  the  pages  of 
ecclesiastical  historians.  We  might  then  have  seen 
St.  Antoninus  "  Athleta  Christi,"  a  holy  martyr 
worshipped  throughout  the  length  and  breadth 
of  Christendom,  as  the  upholder  of  monotheism 
against  the  forces  of  his  polytheistic  surroundings. 

In  connection  with  this  question,  one  act  of  pride 
is  recorded  of  the  sojourn  of  Nicomedia,  an  act  which 
well  shows  the  temper  of  the  boy,  namely,  his  assump- 
tion of  the  latinized  name  of  his  God,  Elagabalus 
(though,  apparently,  this  was  not  done  for  official 
purposes,  as  it  never  occurs  on  the  coins  or  in- 
scriptions of  his  reign).  Earlier  Emperors  had  been 
deified  at  their  death  ;  latterly  it  had  been  customary 
to  accord  divine  honours  during  the  lifetime  of  the 
monarch.  Elagabalus  did  not  believe  that,  a  sena- 
torial patent  aiding,  he  could  become  a  new  God. 
He  did  believe,  unfortunately,  like  so  many  prophets 
and  other  religious  maniacs,  that  he  could  associate 
himself  with  his  God  as  his  earthly  emanation  or 
expression ;  and  henceforward,  says  Lampridius, 
none  might  address  him  officially  except  on  the 
knee.  It  was  a  weird  fancy,  but  no  uncommon 
delusion,  and  the  world  has  connived  at  his  conceit 
by  giving  him  that  title  when  all  others  are  for- 
gotten save  amongst  numismatists.  That  Antonine 
intended  others  to  regard  him  in  this  light,  and  was 
thus  a  constant  menace  to  Christ,  is  certain  from  the 
fact  (recorded  by  Herodian)  that  he  sent  to  the 
imperial  city  during  this  winter  his  portrait,  painted  in 
the  full  splendour  of  his  Aaronic  vestments,  with 
the  command  that  it  should  be  placed  in  the  Senate 

loo  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

House,  immediately  above  the  statue  of  Victory,  and 
that  each  Senator  on  entering  should  offer  incense 
and  an  oblation  to  Deus  Solus  in  the  image  of  his 
High  Priest  on  earth.  Herodian  records  another 
effort,  made  during  this  winter,  to  introduce  the 
worship  of  Deus  Solus  into  the  minds  of  men. 
This  was  an  order  sent  to  magistrates  officiating  at 
the  public  sacrifices  that  this  name  should  take  the 
first  and  most  important  place  ;  an  order  which,  we 
are  told,  even  Montanist  Christians  were  able  to 
obey,  especially  as  there  were  no  penalties  attaching 
to  the  refusal. 

It  had  obviously  been  a  gross  error  of  judgment 
on  Maesa's  part  to  introduce  a  boy  of  such  a  tem- 
perament to  a  religion  of  any  sort,  much  more  so  to 
have  made  him  the  directing  force  thereof;  but  it 
was  done,   and  with   it  went  the  clothes  she  now 
hated    so    cordially.      At     Emesa,    Antonine    had 
accustomed  himself  to  the  clinging  softness  of  the 
silken  raiment  worn   by  that   priesthood  ;    now  he 
declined  to  lay  it  aside.     He  hated  wool  and  refused 
to  wear  it,  neither  did  linen  take  his  fancy.     Silk 
and   cloth   of  gold   encrusted  with  jewels  was   his 
ostentatious    conceit,   and    he   was    going    to   wear 
what  his  soul  delighted  in,  now  that  he  was  free  to 
indulge  his  proclivities,  but  what  had  been  entirely 
proper  and  fitting  at  Emesa  would  not  do  for  the 
War  Lord  of  the  Roman  Empire.     One  knows  that 
circumstances  alter  cases,  and  can  fancy  the  state  of 
Maesa's   mind  when   she    contemplated    the   wide- 
eyed  astonishment  which  would  greet  the  painted 
priest  as  he   made  his  entry  into   Rome  the   con- 


servative.  The  Emperor  thought  he  knew  better 
than  his  elders  ;  he  had  found  the  secret  of  popularity 
with  the  army,  and  thought  that  similar  attractions 
would  bring  the  city  captive  to  his  feet.  Money, 
beauty,  and  voluptuousness,  says  Capitolinus,  had 
brought  him  to  the  throne  of  the  world,  and  he 
had  artistic  taste  enough  to  realise  that  his  beauty, 
height,  and  grace  were  enhanced  when  he  was 
robed  in  the  silken  garments  of  his  choice.  He 
did  not  realise  that  the  clothes  were  too  rich  for  a 
soldier  ;  that  bracelets,  necklaces,  and  tiaras  were  the 
means  by  which  priests  rule  women,  not  soldiers 
the  hearts  of  men  ;  that  now  he  must  put  away 
childish  things,  since  he  had  begun  to  be  a  man, 
the  leader  of  armies.  Again  Maesa  was  right,  but 
she  was  overruled,  and  made  more  entries  against 
the  day  when  the  sum  of  this  grandson's  iniquities 
against  her  should  be  so  complete  that  she  might 
put  another  in  his  room.  It  is  only  fair  to  state, 
however,  that  Dion  totally  disagrees  with  this  other 
"eye-witness"  when  he  remarks,  that  Antonine 
always  wore  the  Toga  Praetexta  at  the  games  and 
shows,  thus  restricting  the  use  of  the  Syrian  clothes 
to  religious  and  family  appearances. 

But,  to  proceed  to  Xiphilinus'  third  charge,  that 
of  putting  men,  even  his  best  friends,  to  death 
without  reason.  This  almost  certainly  refers  to 
the  death  of  Gannys,  his  mother's  and  grand- 
mother's obliging  servant,  and  the  Emperor's  tutor, 
to  whom,  Herodian  tells  us,  he  was  much  attached. 
Forquet  de  Dome  says  that  this  man  considered 
himself  authorised  to  remonstrate  continually  with 


the  Emperor  on  his  conduct,  just  as  though  his 
relations'  grumbHngs  did  not  weary  him  sufficiently. 
Further,  Wotton  tells  us  that  a  marriage  had  been 
arranged  between  him  and  one  of  the  imperial 
ladies,  and  that  there  was  an  idea  of  declaring  him 
Caesar.  Probably  these  two  circumstances  led  to 
the  tragedy  or  accident  which  resulted  in  Gannys' 
death,  and  which,  we  are  told,  Antonine  always 
bitterly  regretted. 

The  tutor  was  nagging  and  pedagogic.  Further, 
a  plot  was  unmasked.  Gannys  did  not  realise 
that  the  Antonine  temper,  when  developed,  was 
not  a  thing  to  play  with.  The  Emperor  forgot 
himself,  and  in  a  fit  of  mad  anger  rushed  at  his 
tormentor  with  his  sword  or  knife  drawn,  struck, 
and  even  wounded  him.  As  was  only  natural, 
Gannys  drew  to  defend  himself,  and  the  guards, 
fearing  for  Antonine's  life,  interposed,  and  the 
unfortunate  man  was  no  more.  Gannys'  fault  lay  in 
neglecting  the  boy's  training  for  amorous  converse 
with  his  female  relations ;  putting  off  his  duty  of 
moulding  the  plastic  character  until  all  was  set, 
hard  as  bronze,  in  a  misshapen  and  distorted  mould. 
He  had  put  everything  off  till  a  time  when  re- 
formation was  impossible,  and  the  reckoning  must 
be  paid  by  the  defaulter.  There  is  no  other  murder 
or  act  of  cruelty,  either  recorded  or  hinted  at  -by 
any  one  of  the  men  who  were  paid  to  ruin  his 
reputation.  The  worst  that  they  can  say  is,  that 
his  character  was  debased,  and  small  wonder. 

As  we  read  this  Emperor's  life,  we  are  bound  to 
admit   that   his   nature  was   debased ;    but   we   are 

IV        THE  WINTER  AT  NICOMEDIA      103 

struck,  not  so  much  by  this  fact,  as  by  the  necessary 
conclusion  that  he  could  never  have  had  the  oppor- 
tunity of  being  anything  else.  His  faults  are 
admittedly  the  faults  of  children,  magnified  by  the 
fact  that  he  was  a  child  suddenly  placed  in  the 
unfortunate  position  where  all  restraint  from  outside 
was  impossible,  and  where  his  wayward  petulancy 
forbade  any  to  tempt  the  trial.  To  him  the  posses- 
sion of  supreme  power  meant  the  holding  of  limitless 
privileges,  with  practically  no  training  for  the  respon- 
sibilities involved.  The  whole  position  calls  for  our 
pity  rather  than  our  censure,  if  we  realise  that  his 
only  training  was  neurotic  or  religious,  and  phallic 
at  that.  All  things  considered,  it  is  a  marvel  that 
no  deeds  of  murder,  rapine,  envy,  hatred,  or  malice 
have  been  laid  to  his  charge,  even  by  his  enemies  ; 
such  as  have  been  laid  to  the  charge  not  only  of  his 
predecessors,  but  even  at  the  door  of  those  whom 
the  world  honours  as  the  righteous,  the  salt  of  the 
earth.  No  history  is  immaculate.  If  it  were,  it 
would  relate  to  a  better  world  ;  unable  to  be  im- 
maculate, history  is  usually  stupid,  more  usually 
false.  Concerning  Elagabalus,  it  has  contrived  to 
be  absurd,  by  means  of  the  impossibility  of  the 
statements  for  which  it  attempts  to  offer  neither 
proof  nor  likelihood. 

It  is  during  this  period  at  Nicomedia,  we  are  told 
by  the  historians  of  the  reign,  that  his  popularity 
disappears — a  statement  which,  on  the  evidence  of 
the  medals  and  inscriptions,  as  well  as  from  what 
we  know  of  his  extraordinary  generosity,  is  and 
must  be  utterly  false.     A  further  statement  that  the 


soldiers  already  regretted  their  action  in  deposing 
Macrinus  is  equally  absurd,  as  they  had  no  sort  of 
reason  to  do  this,  and,  being  largely  returned  to 
their  quarters,  would  know  little  or  nothing  of  any 
scandals  of  which  they  had  fully  approved  a  few 
months  previously.  The  impression  left  by  the 
adjectives  used  on  inscriptions,  medals  and  coins 
is,  that  the  Emperor  was  wildly  popular,  not  only 
with  the  military,  but  also  with  the  civil  population. 
The  titles  are  fulsome,  the  use  of  superlatives 
unparalleled.  The  frequent  use  of  the  adjective 
indulgentissimus  tells  its  own  story,  explains  what 
Romie  thought  of  his  character.  There  is  not  the 
smallest  doubt  that  his  generous  prodigalities 
endeared  him  to  the  whole  population  as  few,  if 
any,  of  the  Emperors  were  ever  endeared,  and  the 
adjectives  are  indicative  of  the  popular  sentiment. 
Another  reason  for  the  popularity  of  the  Emperor 
was  the  Pax  Romana  which  he  brought  to  the 
whole  world.  That  such  was  popular  and  advan- 
tageous is  abundantly  testified  by  the  inscriptions 
and  many  coins  still  known  to  us. 

The  fatal  influences  of  peace  were  as  yet  un- 
recognized, and  a  happy  scepticism  tranquillised  the 
mind,  gave  free  play  to  the  senses.  Life  was 
nonchalant,  though  the  world  still  had  its  one  great 
passion — Rome,  its  greatness  and  renown.  The 
wheels  of  empire  were  well  oiled  ;  they  now  ran 
with  wonderful  smoothness,  even  in  provinces  which 
the  rigidity  of  the  Republic  had  alienated.  It  was 
a  time  when,  even  in  far-distant  Dacia,  the  lover 
quoted  Horace  to  his  maid  under  the  light  of  the 

IV        THE  WINTER  AT  NICOMEDIA     105 

moon,  a  time  when  the  toga  protected  the  world. 
Life  was  sweet,  because  of  the  abundance  of  its 
pleasant  things.  The  treasure  of  the  world  was 
such  as  has  never  been  realised  since,  the  resources 
of  wealth  wonderful.  During  three  hundred  years, 
from  Augustus  to  Diocletian,  no  new  tax  was 
created,  and  at  the  beginning  of  the  third  century 
the  contributions  of  the  citizens,  fixed  two  centuries 
earlier,  had  become  so  nominal,  with  the  growing 
power  of  money,  that  their  weight  was  almost 
infinitesimal.  The  Roman  world  owed  all  to  its 
Imperium  ;  small  wonder  that  its  people  adored  the 
youth  who  personified  its  all  with  such  grace  and 



The  Government  in  Rome  to  the  Year  221  a.d. 

To  write  the  history  of  the  years  from  219  to  221 
(as  we  have  it  in  the  Scriptores)  is  a  task  which  can 
only  be  undertaken  adequately  in  a  language  not 
understanded  of  the  people.  Not  that  these  years 
differed  materially  from  those  which  had  gone  before, 
or  those  that  followed.  "  Every  altar  in  Old  Rome 
had  its  Clodius  " — so  Juvenal  has  told  us — "and  even 
in  Clodius'  absence  there  were  always  those  breaths 
of  sapphic  song  that  blew  through  Mitylene.  Rome 
was  certainly  old,  but  Rome  was  not  good — not,  at 
least,  in  the  sense  in  which  we  use  the  word  to-dav. 
Of  this  no  one  who  has  even  sauntered  through 
the  catacombs  of  the  classics  preserves  so  much  as 
a  lingering  doubt.  This  is  because  the  Roman 
world  was  beautiful,  ornate,  unutilitarian  ;  a  world 
into  which  trams,  advertisements,  and  telegraph 
poles  had  not  yet  come ;  a  world  that  still  had 
illusions,  myths,  and  mysteries,  one  in  which  re- 
ligion and  poetry  went  hand  in  hand,  a  world 
without  newspapers,  hypocrisy,  and  cant,"  a  world 

into  which  this  boy  Emperor,  his  mind  attuned  to 



the    whole    surroundings,    entered    proudly   during 
either  June  or  July  in  the  year  of  grace  219. 

The  date  ol  the  imperial  family's  departure 
from  Nicomedia  is  uncertain,  on  the  information  at 
present  available ;  and  we  can  only  approximate 
to  the  date  of  their  arrival  in  the  city  by  means  of 
a  comparison  between  the  statement  of  Eutropius 
that  he  reigned  two  years  and  eight  months  there, 
and  the  statement  of  Dion  that  he  reigned  in  all 
three  years  nine  months  and  four  days,  neither  of 
which  is  definitely  certain,  as  they  do  not  agree 
with  other  authorities.  If  the  date,  if  even  the 
month,  of  Antonine's  death  were  capable  of  definite 
interpretation,  the  date  of  his  arrival  would  be  clear. 
As  it  is,  most  authorities  have  placed  his  entry  into 
the  city  within  the  first  fortnight  of  July;  Wirth 
suggests,  on  the  foregoing  data,  iith  July,  to  be 
precise.  There  are,  however,  various  circumstances 
which  incline  us  to  an  earlier  period,  most  probably 
during  the  month  of  June. 

It  seems  incredible  that,  unless  the  illness  already 
alluded  to  was  of  a  most  serious  nature,  the  Em- 
peror, with  Macrinus'  failure  before  his  eyes,  should 
have  stayed  away  from  Rome  for  more  than  a  year. 
It  will  be  remembered  that  the  Emperor  Caracalla 
had  been  absent  for  some  years  before  his  death, 
warring  against  the  Parthians  ;  that  Macrinus  had 
spent  the  whole  of  his  fourteen  months'  precarious 
tenure  ot  the  imperial  power  in  or  about  Antioch 
the  voluptuous ;  and  that  the  restored  house  of 
Antonine  had  ruled  with  undisputed  sway  from  Sth 
June  218. 


Rome  had,  therefore,  been  for  about  five  years 
without  her  Court  and  her  God,  the  personification 
of  her  greatness.  All  that  time  Rome  had  clamoured 
and  grown  weary,  waiting  for  her  essential  life  to 
vivify  her  magnificence.  That  Antonine  was 
wanted  and  wildly  popular  there  can  be  no  doubt, 
both  from  the  statements  of  Lampridius  and  those 
of  Eutropius,  which  record  the  spontaneity  with 
which  both  Senate  and  people  condemned  the  usurp- 
ing house,  and  rejoiced  at  the  restoration,  as  also 
from  the  record  of  the  warmth  with  which  Antonine 
was  welcomed  on  his  arrival.  In  fact,  all  men 
seem  to  have  been  pleased  ;  the  army  with  their 
Antonine  ;  the  Senate  with  their  Aurelius  ;  the 
people  with  their  Augustus,  or  their  Nero,  as  the 
case  might  be.  Save  for  her  strength,  Rome  had 
nothing  of  her  own.  Her  religion,  literature,  art, 
philosophy,  luxury,  and  corruption  were  all  from 
abroad.  Greece  gave  her  artists  ;  in  Africa,  Gaul, 
and  Spain  were  her  agriculturists ;  in  Asia  her 
artisans.  Rome  consumed,  she  did  not  produce ; 
except  for  herself  and  her  greatness,  she  was  sterile. 
She  was  bound  to  desire  the  fount  of  her  greatness, 
the  embodiment  of  her  power  in  her  midst. 

This  is,  of  course,  supposition  of  a  merely  circum- 
stantial kind,  but  there  is  more  than  supposition 
that  the  family  arrived  earlier  than  July.  There  is 
the  record  of  the  Emperor's  first  marriage,  which 
must  have  taken  place  early  in  that  month.  This 
is  commemorated  by  Alexandrian  coins  dated  JB, 
i.e.  prior  to  28th  August  219.  The  marriage  took 
place  in  Rome,  and  the  news  of  its  accomplishment 

V      EARLY  GOVERNMENT   IN   ROME    109 

would  take  at  least  three  or  four  weeks  to  reach 
Egypt,  after  which  new  coin  dies  would  have  to 
be  cut,  and  the  money,  ordinary  debased  coins  in 
common  usage,  issued.  The  latest  possible  date, 
therefore,  at  which  the  marriage  could  have  taken 
place,  to  find  coins  in  circulation  recording  the 
event,  before  28th  August,  was  the  second  week 
in  July.  This  leaves  neither  time  to  the  Emperor 
for  the  choice  of  his  consort  after  his  arrival — which 
would,  after  all,  have  been  only  a  natural  wish  on 
his  part  —  nor,  which  is  more  important,  time  to 
make  the  necessary  preparations  for  what  Herodian 
tells  us  were  the  most  stupendous  celebrations  that 
Rome  the  magnificent  had  yet  witnessed.  Wirth's 
date  is  just  possible,  especially  if  Maesa  had  chosen 
the  wife  and  had  made  the  preparations  beforehand ; 
otherwise,  knowing  Maesa's  propensity  for  manage- 
ment, we  must  suppose  an  earlier  date  of  arrival, 
especially  as  no  two  of  the  biographers  agree  as  to 
the  length  of  the  reign,  which  is  variously  stated  as 
having  lasted  from  six  years  (Herodian)  to  thirty 
months  (Victor). 

Unfortunately,  the  one  known  inscription  is 
mutilated.  It  is  set  up  to  the  Sun  in  honour  of 
the  return  of  somebody  and  Totius  Domus  Divinae. 
It  was  found  in  1885  under  the  Via  Tasso  on  a 
pedestal,  and  bears  only  the  date  of  its  erection, 
29th  September  219,  not  the  date  of  the  return  of 
the  house.  It  seems  therefore  safest,  in  order  to 
allow  time  before  21st  July  for  the  marriage  and 
festivities,  to  conjecture  a  start  made  either  late  in 
April  or  early   in    May,   which,   after  a  journey  of 



1600  miles,  would  bring  the  family  to  Rome  some 
time  in  the  early  part  of  June.  It  is,  of  course, 
conjectural,  but  allows  time  for  the  known  events. 

Once  in  Rome,  we  hear  little  good  of  the 
Emperor's  life,  conduct,  administration,  or  abilities. 
Unfortunately,  we  have  to  deal  in  the  main  with 
Constantine's  friend,  Aelius  Lampridius,  a  man 
whose  biography  is  a  cheap  glorification  of  Alex- 
ander, combined  with  ignorant  and  perpetual  abuse 
of  Antonine's  religion  and  psychology.  All  his 
statements  in  the  way  of  fact  could  be  compressed 
into  half  a  page  of  any  ordinary  book  of  reference, 
and  even  these  he  manages  to  arrange  so  badly, 
or  to  draw  from  such  conflicting  sources,  that  they 
comprise  simply  a  mass  of  futile  contradictions. 

The  entry  into  the  city  is  the  record  of  a  scandal 
which  only  Herodian  perpetuates.  This  writer, 
as  we  have  remarked,  is  nowhere  famed  for  his 
accuracy ;  he  tells  us  that  the  cortege  was  a  rabble 
of  women,  eunuchs,  and  priests  of  the  Sun  who 
surrounded  the  Emperor.  The  boy  was  dressed 
in  the  silken  robes  worn  by  the  priests  of  Syria. 
On  his  head  was  a  jewelled  tiara  of  Persian 
design,  whilst  his  body  was  laden  with  rings,  neck- 
laces of  pearls,  bracelets,  and  other  signs  of  vulgar 
ostentation  ;  his  cheeks  were  painted,  his  eyebrows 
darkened  ;  in  fact  he  was  the  very  picture  of  an 
Egyptian  or  Assyrian  courtesan.  To  finish  with, 
we  have  a  bit  of  morality,  which  tells  us  how  he  not 
only  spoilt  his  real  beauty  by  such  extravagances, 
but  made  himself  ridiculous  in  the  eyes  of  gods  and 
men  by  these  borrowed  plumes. 

Coin  of  A.n.  210  commciiioiaiing  tlie  arrival  of  Elagajjaliis  in  Koine 

( British  Museum). 

Liberalilas  11.     Coin  struck  in  .\.0.  219  for  the  iMuperor's  marriage 

with  Julia  Cornelia  I'aula. 

(Krom  the  collection  of  Sir  Janies  S.  Hay,  K.C  M.(j. ) 

Coin  struck  in  .\.i).  219  concerning  the  grain  supply 
( Britibli  Museum  |. 

Coin  struck  in  A.n.  219  tn  commeiiKuatc  ilic  l'.mi)eror  s  recovery 
(  Mriiisli  Museum). 

l-'aif  /(lA'*"  ' '  ".•• 


This  is  all  very  circumstantial,  obviously  the 
work  of  an  eye-witness,  but  it  is  not  supported  by 
the  evidence  of  any  coin  struck  to  commemorate 
the  event.  The  Adventus  Aiigusii  shows  the 
Emperor  riding  into  the  city  laurelled  and  habited 
in  military  accoutrements.  Nor  is  the  scandal 
mentioned  by  either  Lampridius  or  Dion,  which 
means  that,  at  least  as  far  as  Lampridius  goes,  his 
source,  Marius  Maximus,  the  then  City  Praefect, 
who  would  certainly  be  an  eye-witness,  had  not 
noticed  anything  unusual.  This,  one  imagines,  he 
would  have  been  only  too  anxious  to  do,  since 
he  appears  to  have  vacated  this  office  immediately 
afterwards  in  favour  of  the  Emperor's  friend 
Eutychianus,  which  circumstance  was  not  likely  to 
be  specially  pleasing  to  Marius,  and  ought  to  have 
encouraged  him  to  keep  his  eyes  open  for  in- 
decencies. Dion,  too,  as  we  have  said,  is  silent, 
and  he  has  lost  no  other  chance  of  recording 
Antonine's  frailties.  Surely,  then,  it  is  at  least 
allowable  to  relegate  this  record  of  inexcusable 
folly  to  the  limbo  of  other  picturesque  lies,  and 
proceed  to  sift  the  similar  accumulation  which 
Lampridius  has  collected  for  our  amusement. 

Undoubtedly,  the  first  act  was  to  make  an 
alliance  with  the  daughter  of  the  well-known  jurist, 
Julius  Paulus,  and  to  celebrate  the  event  with  a 
colossal  magnificence.  All  the  authors,  with  the 
exception  of  Lampridius,  who  ignores  the  marriage 
entirely,  furnish  picturesque  details.  They  describe 
the  games,  in  which  only  one  elephant  and,  to 
balance  him,  fifty-one  tigers  were  killed  (the  numbers 


are  peculiar,  but  incapable  of  verification)  ;  the 
general  distribution  of  wheat,  the  unusual  magni- 
ficence of  the  whole  scene,  and  the  congiary  in 
which  even  the  wives  of  Senators  took  part.  The 
sums  of  money  given  are  most  noticeable  ;  every 
one  in  Rome  received  150  drachmae  per  head, 
except  the  soldiers,  who  only  got  100,  or  very 
slightly  more — a  diminution  of  the  promised  privi- 
leges formerly  granted  by  Caracalla,  which  could 
scarcely  have  been  pleasing  to  the  Lords  of  Rome, 
especially  if,  as  Lampridius  says,  the  Emperor  had 
already  begun  to  lose  his  popularity  with  the  army. 
It  almost  presupposes  a  change  of  idea  in  the  body 
politic,  and  argues  that  the  new  government  was 
bent  on  the  same  reforms  which  had  ruined  Macrinus, 
a  circumstance  which  would  not  turn  out  advan- 
tageously for  all  concerned.  Certainly  it  was  neither 
wise  nor  conducive  to  peace  thus  to  reduce  the 
donative  on  such  an  occasion  ;  but  of  this  more  must 
be  said  later. 

Directly  after  the  festivities  in  honour  of  the 
arrival,  and,  as  has  been  suggested,  of  the  marriage 
as  well,  because  we  can  only  trace  one  congiary 
and  one  set  of  rejoicings  during  this  year — which 
circumstance  rather  leads  one  to  suppose  that  the 
extraordinary  generosity  cited  did  duty  for  the 
two  occasions — the  Emperor  set  to  work  to  pro- 
vide a  shelter  for  his  God.  In  point  of  fact,  he 
provided  two.  The  first  and  most  magnificent,  was 
on  the  Palatine  ;  the  other,  almost  as  vast  and 
beautiful,  was  a  sort  of  summer  resting-place  in  the 
suburbs.     Wissowa  considers  that  this  second  was 

V      EARLY  GOVERNMENT  IN  ROME    1 1 :; 


in  the  eastern  part  of  the  city,  near  the  site  of  Sta. 
Croce,  near  also  to  the  Porta  Praenestina,  and  that 
it  was  built  on  a  tract  of  land  known  as  "  Ad  Spem 
Veterem  "  ;  in  other  words,  in  the  garden  belonging 
to  Varius  Marcellus,  the  Empress  Soaemias'  late 
husband,  and,  therefore,  imperial  property. 

Concerning  the  position  of  the  first  temple, 
we  have  more  certain  evidence.  Baumeister  has 
identified  certain  ruins  on  the  Palatine  as  the 
Eliogabalium,  and  though  his  conclusions  are  not 
generally  accepted,  all  the  Greek  authors  agree  as 
to  the  Palatine  being  the  centre  of  the  cult.  Victor 
tells  us  that  the  God  was  established  in  "  Palatii 
penetralibus,"  and  Sextus  Rufus  corroborates  Lam- 
pridius'  statement  that  it  was  on  the  site  of  a  temple 
of  Orcus  (Pluto)  on  the  Circus  Maximus  side  of 
the  Palatine  Hill. 

Some  idea  of  its  general  magnificence  may  be 
gathered  from  a  coin  struck  in  the  year  222,  which 
is  described  by  Studniczka.  "  The  temple,"  he 
says,  "  rises  to  a  great  height  in  a  glorious  sym- 
metry of  columns,  and  is  partly  covered  by  the 
figure  of  the  Emperor  and  his  attendant.  Below 
the  group  appears  the  entrance  to  the  temple  court- 
yard, which  is  crowned  with  statues."  On  either 
side  of  the  entrance  are  wing -halls,  singularly 
reminiscent  of  the  Bramante  porticoes  at  St.  Peter's, 
eagles  taking  the  place  of  statues  as  acroteria. 

We  must  not  suppose,  despite  Xiphilinus'  state- 
ment, that  the  cult  of  this  Sun  God  was  first  heard 
of  in  Rome  at  this  period.  All  the  imperial  money 
coined  at   Emesa  had  borne  his  temple,  stone,  and 


114  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

eagle  on  the  obverse  for  many  years  past,  besides 
which  the  worship  of  Mithra,  the  Persian  Sun  God, 
is  considered  by  Cumont  to  have  been  the  most 
popular  religion  in  Rome  at  this  time.  Septimius 
Severus  had  built  a  temple  on  the  Palatine  in  his 
honour,  doubtless  with  the  help  and  counsel  of  the 
family  of  Elagabal  worshippers,  and  there  seem  to 
have  been  many  others  in  the  city  ;  a  fact  which 
would  tend  to  pave  the  way  for  Antonine's  scheme. 
This  however  could  not  develop  itself  until  the 
temple  was  completed,  which  from  the  evidence 
that  can  be  gathered  from  coins  and  inscriptions 
does  not  seem  to  have  been  an  accomplished  fact 
until  the  late  autumn  of  the  next  year,  220. 

No  sooner  was  the  temple  finished  than  the 
scheme  for  the  unifying  of  churches,  which  the 
Emperor  had  himself  conceived,  and  intended  to 
promote  with  the  full  strength  of  imperial  com- 
mand, was  put  into  operation.  As  we  have  said, 
Antonine  had  no  more  idea  of  making  Elagabal  a 
mere  rival  to  the  Roman  Deities  than  Constantine 
had  of  putting  Christ  into  that  unenviable  position. 
He  intended  that  the  Lord  should  swallow  up  all 
other  Deities,  should  make  captive  all  the  gods  of 
old  Rome.  To  do  this  it  was  necessary,  first,  to 
impress  the  world  with  the  splendour,  the  beauty, 
the  power,  and  the  magnificence  of  that  being  who 
had  so  miraculously  delivered  the  family  of  Bas- 
sianus  from  Phoenician  obscurity,  and  brought  them 
into  the  fierce  light  of  the  Roman  noonday;  secondly, 
he  had  to  make  some  alliance  with  the  head  and 
centre  of  the   old    Roman   worship  of  Vesta,   the 


one  religion  which  symbolised  Rome,  its  perpetuity, 
and  its  undying  fame ;  thirdly,  he  had  to  acquire 
all  the  objects  of  sacred  devotion,  and  transfer  them 
to  Elagabal's  temple,  as  well  to  attract  worshippers 
as  to  stimulate  devotion. 

For  the   accomplishment    of  the    first   of  these 
objects  he  ordained  the  most  magnificent  worship 
that  had  as  yet  been  devised.     He,  as  High  Priest, 
used  to  descend  daily  from  the  palace  in  order  to 
sacrifice   vast  quantities   of  oxen   and   sheep  upon 
innumerable   altars   laden  with  spices   and   odours. 
The   libations  were   more   ample   and  more   costly 
than  any  that  had  yet   been   heard  of.     Herodian 
further  tells  us  how  the  rare  and  costly  wines  min- 
gling  with   the   blood   of  the  victims    made   great 
streams  in  every  direction  ;   but  even  this  waste  was 
insufficient :  with  Davidic  persistency  the  Emperor 
danced,    encircling     the    altars,     followed    by    the 
Syrians,  men   and  women,  who  formed   his   court, 
while  the  display  and  waste  of  energy  was  accom- 
panied by  the  clashing  of  cymbals  and  other  instru- 
ments of  music  which  had  been  brought  from  the 
God's    home    in    the    East.     At    these   orgies    the 
Senate  sat  in  a  great  semicircle,  and  were,  fortun- 
ately,  mere    spectators   of  the   show.      It   was   the 
generals  of  armies,  the  governors  of  provinces,  and 
court  officials  of  all  sorts  who  were  less  fortunate. 
These  worthies  Antonine   habited   in   a   replica  of 
his  own  trailing  garments,  and  ordered  to  perform 
menial  offices  about  the  altars  of  God,  a  proceed- 
ing which  caused   them  to  gnash   with   their   teeth 
and  run  about  the  city  declaring  very  plainly  (to  one 


another,  of  course)  that  they  infinitely  preferred  the 
tents  of  ungodliness  to  all  and  sundry  offices  of 
divine  religion,  especially  in  its  Semitic  forms. 
From  the  very  outset  Elagabal  was  unpopular 
with  the  upper  classes.  They  had  cause  to  dislike 
this  insensate  show.  With  the  populace  it  was 
probably  different,  at  least  for  a  time.  One  can 
imagine  their  joy  at  beholding,  tier  upon  tier,  the 
Conscript  Fathers  assembled  each  morning  as 
most  unwilling  spectators  of  a  show  which  they 

As  we  have  already  pointed  out,  other  Eastern 
cults  were  making  considerable  headway  in  Rome 
amongst  all  classes,  and  had  attracted  not  a  few  of 
that  august  body.  We  have  mentioned  the  worship 
of  the  Sun  God  Mithra,  which,  with  other  similar 
religions,  had  constantly  increased  in  importance 
since  the  year  204  b.c,  the  date  of  its  introduction 
into  the  city. 

Now  the  Eastern  cults  were  popular  because  they 
supplied  a  felt  want,  namely,  a  personal  spiritual 
religion,  whereas  the  religion  of  Rome,  though  fine, 
virile  and  strong,  was  purely  political.  The  God  of 
Rome  was  Rome,  and  concerned  itself  solely  with 
patriotism.  With  the  individual,  with  his  happiness 
or  aspirations,  it  concerned  itself  not  at  all.  It  was 
the  prosperity  of  the  Empire,  its  peace  and  immor- 
tality, for  which  sacrifices  were  made  and  libations 
offered.  The  antique  virtues,  courage  in  war, 
moderation  in  peace,  and  honour  at  all  times,  were 
civic,  not  personal.  It  was  the  state  that  had  a 
soul,  not   the  individual.     Man  was   ephemeral,  it 


was  the  nation  that  endured.'  Naturally,  this  was 
unsatisfying  to  the  uneducated  ;  their  Rome  was 
the  abridgment  of  every  superstition,  their  Pantheon 
an  abattoir  of  the  Gods  who  presided  over  death  and 
whose  worship  was  gore. 

Added  to  this  had  come  the  worship  of  Isis,  the 
secrets  of  Mithra,  of  which  the  chief  note  was  one 
of  mysticism.  There  was  something  terrifying  and 
yet  alluring  about  the  abluent  functions,  the  initia- 
tions, the  secrets  that  it  was  death  to  divulge. 
Now,  the  rites  that  Antonine  introduced  were 
entirely  blatant,  Semitic,  Syrian.  They  con- 
tained, as  far  as  we  can  judge,  nothing  specially 
mysterious,  either  in  the  way  of  initiation  or 
progression,  little  which  could  even  attract  the 
curiosity  of  the  devout.  All  that  Elagabal  could 
appeal  to  was  the  public  curiosity  ;  his  worship  was, 
in  fact,  designed  to  appeal  to  such  and  nothing  more, 
at  the  outset ;  even  with  such  an  end  in  view  it  miofht 
have  become  popular  had  it  not  been  that  Antonine 
made  this  all-embracing  deity  too  easy  of  access, 
in  consequence  of  which  he  became  too  cheap. 
The  Emperor  seems  to  have  recognised  this  early, 
and  to  have  evolved  a  scheme  for  uniting  the  already 
popular  mysteries  of  all  other  Gods  with  his  own  ; 
to  which  resolve  we  may  attribute  the  stories  of  his 
initiation  into  the  priesthood  of  Cybele  and  the 
rest  ;  he  thought  that  it  would  enhance  his  God's 
attractiveness  and  assure  his  popularity  in  the  eyes 
of  the  mob. 

1  As  Tiberius,  "  Principes  mortales,  rem  publicam  aeternam  esse  "  {Ann. 
iii.  6). 

ii8  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

As  far  as  we  can  judge  from  the  evidence  of 
coins  and  medals,  there  was  Httle  or  no  parade  of 
Antonine's  rehgious  ideals  or  his  comprehensive  cult 
until  the  later  part  of  the  year  220,  until,  in  fact, 
the  temple  was  ready  and  the  necessary  adjuncts  to 
hand.  With  its  opening  came  the  transference 
thither  of  the  most  venerable  objects  of  Roman 
superstition  :  all  the  sacred  stones,  even  the  Palla- 
dium from  the  temple  of  Minerva,  the  sacred  fire 
which  was  the  symbol  of  Rome's  existence,  even 
the  shields  which  had  fallen  from  heaven,  and  to 
which  the  oracles  had  attached  the  very  destinies 
of  the  city  itself  But  of  this  more  in  its  proper 

Certainly,  for  all  his  attempts,  Elagabal  did  not 
become  a  popular  divinity.  Men  began  to  fear  his 
propensity  for  swallowing  other  cults.  His  rapacity 
in  absorbing  the  deities  of  centuries  made  the 
superstitious  uneasy  for  the  continued  existence 
of  Gods  whom,  they  believed  vaguely,  they  might 
some  day  need,  and  who  would  then  have  lost  their 
power  and  authority.  But  there  was  yet  another 
reason  for  Elagabal's  unpopularity,  namely,  the 
Emperor's  attempt  to  unite  the  Hebraic  and 
Christian  mysteries  with  those  of  his  own  God. 

Neither  Christian  nor  Hebrew  was  ever  popular 
in  old  Rome.  Their  characters,  their  rites,  and 
their  machinations  were  sincerely  disapproved  of 
both  by  the  rulers  and  the  governed  ;  they  were 
generally  known  as  robbers,  thieves,  liars,  law- 
breakers, cannibals  even,  men  who  were  lacking  in 
every  virtue  that  Rome  held  dear ;  men  who  set  up 


their  own  specimen  of  a  creed  to  the  exclusion  of  all 
others,  the  which  was,  generally  speaking,  subver- 
sive of  government,  law  and  order.  They  were 
men  entirely  displeasing  to  the  high  Gods,  and 
therefore  to  be  spared  only  when  the  master  of 
Rome  refused  consent  to  kill. 

Now,  Antonine  clearly  protected  these  atheistic 
vagabonds,  citizens  of  no  state,  troublers  of  every 
nation  ;  nay  more,  he  attempted  to  tolerate  their 
blasphemies  by  uniting  them  with  his  own  religion. 
As  we  have  said,  Rome  was  probably  familiar  with 
Elagabal  through  the  Syrian  house  and  Emesan 
coins,  but  with  the  other  Judean  religion  they  had 
not  a  few  disagreements,  and  had  certainly  no  wish 
to  amalgamate  it  with  the  venerated  cults  of  the 
city,  as  Antonine  seemed  bent  on  doing.  It  was 
certainly  a  bad  day  for  the  house  of  Severus  when 
the  Emperor  decided  to  mix  himself  up  with  the 
hated  Judaism. 

We  must  here  leave  for  a  moment  the  history 
of  Antonine's  religious  changes  and  aspirations  to 
recount  the  secular  work  accomplished  between  the 
summer  of  the  year  219  and  the  autumn  or  winter 
of  the  year  220,  it  may  be  even  up  to  the  early 
weeks  of  the  year  221,  when  the  Emperor  made 
that  vital  mistake  in  policy  which  threw  him  into 
the  hands  of  his  family,  to  his  undoing. 

Am.ongst  the  "  facts  "  recorded  by  Lampridius 
concerning  this  period,  we  have  two  mutually  ex- 
clusive statements  concerning  the  admission  of  the 
Emperor's  mother  and  grandmother  to  the  Senate, 
and  their  governmental  position  in  the  State.     The 


first  (in  Sec.  4)  states  that  at  the  very  first  meeting 
of  that  august  assembly  Antonine  sent  for  his 
mother ;  that  on  her  arrival  he  called  her  to  take  a 
place  alongside  the  Consuls ;  and  that  with  them 
she  signed  decrees,  Senatus  Consulta,  and  other 
documents,  an  enormity  which  no  other  woman  had 
ever  perpetrated,  and  which  was  certainly  never 
heard  of  again.  He  finishes  with  the  remark  that 
she  obtained  the  title  of  Clarissima,  the  only  woman 
who  has  ever  had  this  honour  conferred  upon  her — 
altogether  a  most  circumstantial  account. 

A  few  sections  farther  on  (Sec.  12)  he  recounts 
how  Antonine  always  took  his  grandmother  Varia 
with  him  whenever  he  went  to  the  camp  or  to  the 
Senate,  in  order  to  give  him  the  authority  and 
dignity  which  he  lacked,  adding,  that  before  her  no 
woman  had  been  admitted  into  the  Senate  either 
to  give  her  opinion  or  append  her  signature.  It 
is  significant,  by  the  way,  that  Varia  never  was  and 
never  could  have  been  Maesa's  name — so  much  for 
Lampridius'  ignorance  of  the  family  history. 

Now,  either  Antonine  took  one,  both,  or  neither  ; 
Lampridius  says  both — each  to  the  exclusion  of  the 
other,  as  each  was  first,  each  the  only  woman,  but 
Soaemias  was  alone  Clarissima.  Cannot  one  see  the 
jealous  wrath  of  the  grandmother,  the  real  poli- 
tician, at  the  promotion  of  her  absolutely  incap- 
able daughter  over  her  head  by  means  of  that 
coveted  title  (a  title,  by  the  way,  which  would  have 
bored  Soaemias'  temperament  inexpressibly),  while 
she  was  relegated  to  an  inferior  position  ? 

The  only  conclusion  to  be  drawn  is  that  which  is 


recorded  by  all  the  inscriptions,  namely,  that  Maesa 
was  the  predominant  factor,  since  her  name  always 
occurs  first  where  she  and  Soaemias  are  mentioned 
together.  Maesa,  in  all  probability,  did  slip  into 
the  Senate  ;  she  would  have  appreciated  the  dignity 
of  the  position  enormously,  and  the  fact  would  give 
a  basis  to  some  story  or  other  that  had  got  about. 
Antonine  would  certainly  have  had  no  objection  ; 
the  Senate  was  no  longer  the  government  properly 
so  called  ;  Maesa  could  do  no  harm  there,  and  it 
would  be  a  sop  to  her  for  the  small  power  she  was 
exercising  in  the  actual  development  of  events. 

Soaemias,  we  can  quite  believe,  was  president  of 
the  assembly  on  the  Quirinal  which  Lampridius 
sneers  at  as  a  foundation  of  Antonine's,  and  yet  tells 
us  had  existed  before  his  time.  It  was  called  the 
Senaculum  or  Conventus  Matronarum.  Fried- 
lander  says  that  it  w^as  an  ancient  and  honourable 
assembly  as  early  as  the  year  394  B.C.,  when  its 
members  voted  their  jewels  to  help  raise  the  tithe 
in  connection  with  the  spoils  of  Veii.  Seneca  re- 
fers to  it  in  his  treatise  De  viatrimoniis  as  a  regular 
assembly.  Again,  in  the  year  209  B.C.,  the  matrons 
met,  in  consequence  of  omens,  to  decide  on  expia- 
tion ;  even  in  imperial  times  Suetonius  says  that 
the  Assembly  met  to  reprove  Agrippina  for  her 
vagaries;  and  Hieronymus  counts  amongst  the  dis- 
tractions of  Roman  life  the  daily  attendance  at  the 
Matronarum  Senatus.  What,  therefore,  this  petu- 
lant and  carping  critic  can  find  to  grumble  about  in 
this  permanent  assembly  meeting  to  carry  out  the 
provisions  of   the   Lex  Appia,   one   simply  cannot 

122  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

imagine,  unless  it  be  that,  having  been  prejudiced  in 
early  youth,  he  declined  to  listen  to  any  arguments 
for  the  furthering  of  either  women's  rights  or  duties 
in  the  State.  At  any  rate,  it  is  scarcely  fair  to  stig- 
matise as  an  immoral  and  reprehensible  act,  the 
Emperor's  grant  to  this  Senate  of  women  of  the 
power  to  make  necessary  edicts  on  points  which  are 
now  very  ably  supervised  by  the  Lord  Chamber- 
lain's department.  The  points  discussed  were  those 
relating  to  the  length  of  a  train  or  the  Court 
uniform  of  a  guardsman  ;  the  precedence  due  to 
rank  ;  who  must  wait  for  another's  salutation  ;  to 
whom  a  carriage;  to  whom  a  saddle-horse;  to 
whom  a  public  conveyance  ;  to  whom  a  mere 
donkey-cart  was  a  fitting  means  of  progression ; 
who  might  use  mules  ;  or  for  whom  oxen  were  con- 
sidered sufficiently  rapid ;  for  whom  the  saddle 
might  be  inlaid  with  ivory ;  for  whom  with  bone ; 
for  whom  with  silver ;  or  even  when  pointing 
out  what  persons  might  fittingly  wear  gold  and 
jewelled  buckles  on  their  shoes  without  the  imputa- 
tion of  plutocratic  ostentation. 

To-day,  despite  the  fact  that  we  have  progressed 
by  eighteen  centuries,  it  is  generally  believed  in 
governmental  circles  that  such  matters  are  possibly 
best  settled  by  women,  and  such  useful,  not  to  say 
necessary  functions  concerning  the  polite  amenities 
of  civilised  existence  would  be  most  readily  con- 
ceded by  authority  to  their  sex,  if  only  such  would 
content  and  assuage  that  feline  animosity  which 
has  of  late  disturbed  social  gatherings,  even  the 
intercourse   between   authorities   in   the   state  and 


ladies  seekjng^a  useful  outlet  for  their  superfluous 
energies,  ^las;  the  world  is  grown  older,  and  the 
female  mind  now  knows  itself  capable  of  regulating 
both  the  social  and  political  worlds,  and  has  no 
intention  of  satisfying  its  aspirations,  like  Soaemias, 
with  the  social  side  of  life,  as  long  as  mere  man 
opposes  her  entrance  into  the  political  sphere. 

Surely,  everything  considered,  this  cavilling  at 
what  was  an  ancient,  and  still  would  be  a  useful, 
body,  is  only  another  proof  of  the  spirit  in  which  the 
biographers  have  poured  abuse  on  a  boy  who  was 
so  obviously  striving  to  satisfy  his  relatives  by 
giving  them  an  outlet  for  their  energies,  while  keep- 
ing the  essential  powers  of  government  in  his  own 
hands.  Of  course  he  failed,  mainly  because  his 
grandmother  was  not  satisfied  with  her  function 
in  the  state,  she  wanted  to  filch  from  Antonine 
what  was  his  right,  and  what  she  wanted  she 
determined  to  get  at  all  costs.  Whether  she  really 
aspired  to  the  Senate  and  got  there  is  another 
question.  It  is  distinctly  stated  that  under  Alex- 
ander Severus  no  woman  ever  sat  in  that  assembly  ; 
further,  that  decrees  were  passed  forbidding  their 
presence  there  for  ever.  Now,  Maesawas  almost 
sole  ruler  during  the  early  years  of  that  reign,  and 
one  can  never  believe  that  she  deprived  herself  of 
one  jot  or  tittle  of  a  power  which  she  had  once 
acquired.  There  is  one  occasion,  and  one  occasion 
only,  on  which  we  may  well  imagine,  as  the  writers 
state,  that  the  women  were  all  present,  ofticially,  in 
the  Senate,  namely,  at  the  meeting  when  Alexander 
was  adopted.     At  other  times,  we  can  believe  that 


124  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

they  were  there,  just  as  the  queen  consort  is  present 
in  the  House  of  Peers,  but  without  any  real  pohtical 

To  this  period  Lampridius  assigns  the  winter 
spent  at  Nicomedia,  which  is  a  very  fair  example 
of  this  biographer's  egregious  carelessness  and 
stupidity.  Considering  that  both  Dion  and  Herodian 
are  perfectly  explicit  as  to  the  actual  date,  it  is 
monstrous  that  he  should  have  put  this  period  just 
a  year  later  than  it  actually  occurred,  nor,  as  we 
have  said,  is  it  in  this  matter  alone  that  he  leads  us 
to  mistrust  his  accuracy,  where  either  fact  or  fiction 
are  at  stake. 

Lampridius,  with  a  great  show  of  moralising, 
and  having  already  stated  that  the  Emperor  had 
lost  his  popularity  shortly  after  Macrinus'  death, 
re -ascribes  its  loss  to  this  current  year,  namely, 
from  the  summer  of  219  to  the  autumn  of  220,  and 
this  without  showing  cause,  reason,  or  mismanage- 
ment which  would  justify  the  statement,  if  we 
except  the  vague  statement  that  he  neglected  public 
business  for  religion,  though,  as  far  as  we  can  see, 
the  Emperor  did  not  begin  to  neglect  the  State 
for  the  Church  until  his  temple  was  opened.  After 
that  time  we  can  well  believe  that  all  his  energies 
were  centred  on  his  cult,  an  error  which,  like  that 
made  by  certain  Stuart  sovereigns  of  this  enlight- 
ened country,  equally  lost,  the  one  his  head,  and 
the  other  his  crown.  No  act  of  cruelty  is  cited,  -no 
accusation  of  glaring  or  vital  mistakes  made,  until 
the  very  end  of  the  year  220. 

Arrived  at  that  period,  there  is  much  to  be  said 


— the  mismanagement  of  affairs  grows  apace.  First, 
there  is  his  religion,  which  he  makes  a  definite 
eyesore  ;  second,  he  is  accused  of  selling  honours, 
dignities,  and  power,  both  with  his  own  hands 
and  by  those  of  his  favourites  ;  third,  he  appoints 
Senators  without  any  reference  to  either  their  age, 
good  sense,  or  nobility  ;  fourth,  he  sells  the  offices 
of  praefect,  tribune,  ambassador,  and  general,  even 
those  about  the  palace  itself 

Now,  all  this  may  be  perfectly  true.  Antonine 
must  have  wanted  money,  but,  as  we  have  remarked 
before,  he  had  a  passion  for  giving,  not  for  receiving. 
The  most  likely  supposition  is  therefore,  that  he 
gave  offices  indiscriminately  to  those  who  pleased 
him,  and  that  his  favourites,  often  debased  and  un- 
worthy people,  sold  what  they  could  get  hold  of 
to  the  highest  bidder.  The  accusation  is  vitiated 
by  the  fact  that  no  names  are  mentioned,  no 
instances  given,  except  those  of  the  two  chariot 
drivers,  Protogenes  and  Gordius,  intimates  of  the 
Emperor  and  supervisors  of  his  sports.  It  is  quite 
possible  that  he  admired  and  liked  these  men  for 
their  proficiency  in  sport,  and  that  unwholesome 
minds  saw  more  in  the  friendship  than  was  warranted. 
Of  Protogenes  we  hear  no  more.  Cordus  or 
Gordius — probably  the  same  person  as  the  above 
— was  made  Praefect  of  the  Watch  during  the 
next  year ;  perhaps  he  was  useful,  perhaps  he 
was  not ;  any  way  he  was  dismissed  in  the  autumn 
of  221. 

Amongst  the  last  events  of  this  220th  year  of 
our  salvation,  or  early  in  the  year   221,  occurred 

126  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

the  divorce  of  the  august  JuHa  Cornelia  Paula, 
Empress.  We  know  that  it  was  late  in  the  year, 
as  there  are  coins  in  existence  struck  at  Alexandria 
after  29th  August  which  bear  her  name,  and  others 
struck  at  Tripolis  in  Phoenicia  after  October  220 
(Eckhel).  In  all  probability  this  lady  was  in  no 
way  averse  to  retiring  into  opulent  privacy,  a  woman 
with  both  a  past  and  a  future. 

Certainly  her  husband  had  neglected  her  scandal- 
ously if  even  a  tithe  of  Lampridius'  stories  of  his 
infidelities  are  true,  and,  from  what  we  can  learn 
of  his  psychological  state,  a  certain  number  are 
obviously  so.  Modern  investigation  of  such  psycho- 
pathic conditions  inclines  us  to  admit  that  the 
boy  was  a  sort  of  nymphomaniac,  if  not  entirely 
homosexual,  at  least  heterosexual,  with  a  strong 
homosexual  instinct,  and  it  would  be  unnatural  for 
any  woman  to  appreciate  this  temperament  in  a 
husband,  especially  when  she  knew,  as  she  must 
have  known,  since  he  was  perfectly  frank  about 
it,  that  he  was  already  allied,  by  a  species  of  matri- 
mony, with  the  chariot  driver  Hierocles  —  calling 
himself  wife  and  Empress — and  that  he  was  not 
attached  to  this  man  alone  but  to  many  others,  for 
whom  inquisition  had  been  made  throughout  the 
Empire,  on  account  of  their  looks  and  ability  to 
satiate  his  mania  more  satisfactorily. 
.  This  is,  of  course,  Lampridius'  version  of  the 
Emperor's  character,  and  the  same  sources  have 
been  used  by  both  Dion  and  Herodian  with  similar 
though  varying  degrees  of  grossness  in  expression. 
Undoubtedly   the    boy    was    by    nature    abnormal, 


as  were  almost  all  the  Emperors  of  Old  Rome. 
Antonine  had  his  moments  when  he  imitated  a 
virgin  at  bay,  others  when  he  was  a  wife,  still 
others  when  he  expected  to  be  a  mother,  others 
when  he  carded  wool,  others  when  he  played  the 
pandore  (an  instrument  of  music  with  three  strings 
invented  by  the  Assyrians,  according  to  Pollux, 
or,  as  Isidore  remarks,  attributed  to  the  God  Pan 
himself).  Again,  he  would  play  the  hydraulic  organ 
of  the  period,  and  loved  to  dress  himself  in  the 
clothes  of  women,  even  in  the  customary  undress 
uniform  of  the  courtesan,  adopting  the  positions, 
voice,  and  manner  of  the  most  expert. 

Undoubtedly  these  pastimes  were  most  repre- 
hensible and  unpleasant,  to  be  condemned  one  and 
all ;  though  somehow  to-day  we  are  not  altogether 
inclined  to  regard  proficiency  in  music  amongst 
men  as  quite  so  censurable  and  disgusting  an  art 
as  the  other  foibles — to  give  them  no  worse  a  name 
— which  Lampridius  so  justly  censures.  Unfor- 
tunately, many  of  these  seem  to  have  come  quite 
naturally  to  the  Emperor  on  account  of  his  untrained 
and  unrestrained  nature,  though  Forquet  de  Dome 
thinks  that  it  was  not  so  much  evil  propensities  as 
his  innate  desire  to  please,  combined  with  his 
genuine  efforts  to  spend  all  his  energies  for  other 
people,  which  have  been  misinterpreted  by  the  evil- 
minded,  especially  as  this  was  not  the  only  side  to 
the  boy's  character,  as  the  biographers  would  have 
us  believe.  And  this  because  we  are  told,  amongst 
the  list  of  his  enormities,  that  he  loved  driving 
chariots  both  in  the  palace  and  in  the  circus,  habited 

128  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

in  a  green  tunic,  and  that  he  was  most  dextrous  in 
the  sport. 

To-day,  racing  is  considered  as  the  sport  of 
kings ;  certainly  it  is  not  the  obvious  outcome 
of  an  effeminate  or  degraded  mind ;  rather  the 
reverse :  it  is  a  virile  occupation,  calling  forth 
nerve,  pluck,  courage,  and  other  manly  qualities. 
In  third-century  Rome  it  was  much  the  same,  but 
for  purposes  of  disgusting  posterity  Lampridius 
affected  not  to  think  so.  He  pointed  out  that  it 
was  a  calling  proper  only  to  coachmen  and  lackeys, 
though  he  must  have  known,  if  he  had  thought 
about  it  at  all,  that  his  readers  would  listen  with 
their  tongues  in  their  cheeks  when  he  tried  to 
maintain  that  the  courage,  nerve,  and  pluck  which 
the  boy  showed  in  this  sport  were  evidences  of  the 
same  degeneracy  which  he  was  decrying  when  he 
recounted  the  carding  of  wool  and  the  other  feminine 
occupations.  Hosts  of  men,  kings,  and  emperors 
of  all  ages  have  indulged  in  the  intoxication  of 
horse-racing.  The  mere  fact  of  Lampridius  putting 
this  story,  with  its  palpably  stupid  and  far-fetched 
moral,  alongside  the  really  serious  scandals  would 
be  enough  to  make  critics  distrust,  not  only  his 
information,  but  even  his  ability  to  understand  and 
use  such  when  he  had  got  it. 

To  sum  up,  therefore,  our  investigations  of  the 
months  between  June  219  and  November  220,  we 
must  admit  that  no  gross  act  of  folly  had  aa  yet 
been  committed.  The  Emperor  had  spent  his  time 
in  building  his  temples,  and  in  restoring  the  Flavian 
amphitheatre — which  had  been  burnt  down  on  23rd 


August  217, — in  finishing  the  baths  of  Caracalla, 
and  in  erecting  his  own  splendid  bathing  establish- 
ments in  the  palace  and  on  the  Aventine.  He  had 
refounded  the  Senaculum,  and  built  a  hall  for  its 
use  ;  he  was  attending  to  business,  helped  by  his 
fellow-consul,  Eutychianus,  and  was  giving  righteous 
judgment,  as  all  biographers  admit,  when  he 
attended  the  courts  or  the  Senate.  He  was, 
moreover,  most  popular,  liberal,  and  generous, 
though  devoted  to  the  pleasures  of  the  table, 
and  unfortunately  hermaphroditic  in  tendency, 
which  hereditary  taint  was  certainly  mitigated  by 
the  fact  that  he  was  devoted  to  outdoor  exercises, 
especially  those  that  demanded  courage,  nerve,  and 
strength  of  will.  Underneath  all  this  there  is  a 
predominating  religious  feeling,  and  the  simply 
monotheistic  obsession  which  drove  him  to  his 

The  year  221  is  the  time  of  Antonine's  utter 
failure.  As  far  as  we  can  judge  from  numismatic 
evidence,  one  of  his  first  acts  was  to  divorce,  as 
we  have  said,  the  Empress  Julia  Paula,  probably 
in  pursuance  of  his  scheme  for  religious  unity. 
He  had  conceived  a  notion  of  rendering  his  God 
absolutely  supreme  by  means  of  an  alliance  with 
the  worship  of  Vesta.  Now  this  Goddess  and  her 
Sacred  Stone  or  Phallus,  called  the  Palladium,  her 
shields  or  bucklers,  had  been  sent  to  Troy  direct 
from  heaven.  Aeneas  had  brought  them  to  Latium, 
and  they  were  the  head  and  centre  of  Roman 
greatness.  Pallas,  or  Vesta,  was  too  powerful  to 
be  absorbed  in  the  ordinary  way.     Antonine  there- 



fore  considered  that  his  God,  being  unmarried, 
might  well  acquire  possession  of  Vesta  by  a  matri- 
monial alliance.  As  Pontifex  Maximus,  he  was 
head  of  the  Vesta  worship,  and  had  a  perfect  right 
to  enter  her  shrine  when  and  how  he  pleased,  a 
circumstance  which  Lampridius  entirely  ignored 
when  he  said  that  the  Emperor  forced  his  way 
into  the  temple  illegally.  Antonine  certainly  did 
go  to  her  shrine  at  this  time,  and  took  the  sacred 
fire,  carrying  it  to  the  Eliogabalium.  Lampridius 
asserts  that  the  high  priestess,  being  jealous  of 
the  loss  of  her  charge,  tried  to  palm  off  a  false 
vessel  upon  him,  but  that  the  Emperor  saw  the 
deceit  and  broke  the  jar  in  contempt  for  the  foolish 
fraud.  He  also  transferred  the  sacred  stone  at  the 
same  time,  and  in  pursuance  of  his  plan,  celebrated 
the  nuptials  on  which  he  had  set  his  heart.  This  was 
bad  enough  for  Roman  susceptibilities,  but  he  went 
one  worse.  Being  himself  free,  he  decided  to  marry 
one  of  the  Sacred  Vestals  from  the  shrine  of  his 
God's  new  wife.  He  certainly  seems  to  have  been 
vitally  attracted  by  the  charms  of  Aquilia  Severa,  a 
woman  no  longer  in  the  first  flush  of  youth,  to  judge 
by  her  effigy,  but  one  whom  his  religious  as  well  as 
his  personal  predilections  pointed  out  as  a  fitting 
consort.  Pallas  and  Elagabal  were  united  in  a 
heavenly  union  like  so  many  others  amongst  Syrian 
and  Egyptian  deities  ;  why,  then,  should  not  Anto- 
nine, the  chief  priest  of  the  Sun,  and  Aquilia,  an 
important  priestess  of  Minerva,  unite  in  a  fruitful 
union  which  would  produce  a  demi-god  meet  for  the 
Empire  ? 



The  theory  had  its  points.  Unfortunately,  Rome 
did  not  see  them.  She  stood  obviously  aghast, 
thoroughly  disliking  the  notion.  Then,  as  now, 
Rome  disliked  the  public  repudiation  of  vows  ;  it 
was  an  unforgivable  scandal.  As  Clement  VII. 
remarked  some  years  later  to  Henry  Tudor,  with 
an  equally  genuine  fervour,  "  Pray,  please  yourself 
by  all  means,  but  don't  let  me  know."  That  was 
and  always  will  be  the  true  Roman  attitude.  Con- 
cubinage amongst  these  ladies  was  perfectly  natural, 
in  fact  fairly  usual,  if  we  can  believe  Suetonius, 
but  matrimony  never;  it  offended  the  susceptibilities, 
and  hence  the  subsequent  trouble.  Antonine  does 
not  seem  to  have  grasped  this  fact,  and,  if  any 
one  told  him,  he  was  too  much  enamoured  of  his 
scheme  to  resign  it  without  an  effort.  But  even 
the  Senate  seems  to  have  protested,  and  a  plot, 
in  which  Pomponius  Bassus  and  Silius  Messalawere 
implicated  (probably  inspired  by  that  upright  lady 
Julia  Mamaea),  was  set  on  foot.  It  was  an  attempt 
to  substitute  some  other  personage  for  the  youth 
who  knew  so  little  of  Roman  feeling  as  to  commit 
this  act  of  sacrilege.  These  two  men  were  well- 
known  busybodies,  who  had  already  dethroned  one 
Emperor,  and  were  obviously  anxious  for  further 
employment  in  the  same  direction.  Unfortunately 
for  them,  the  plan  was  discovered,  and  their  secret 
court,  held  to  consider  the  Emperor's  actions, 
raided.  They  were  immediately  arraigned  before 
the  Senate,  and  condemned  for  the  crime  of  lese- 
majesii\  or  treason,  probably  both,  thus  meeting 
the  fate  they  had  so  richly  deserved ;  but  of  these 


two  men  we  shall  have  occasion  to  speak  later 

There  is  still  another  thing  to  notice  in  con- 
nection with  this  dual  marriage  (that  of  the  two 
Gods  and  of  the  High  Priest  and  the  Vestal), 
namely,  the  erection  of  a  shrine  in  the  Forum  to 
celebrate  the  event,  the  which  was  probably  built, 
according  to  Comrnendatore  Boni,  somewhere  in  the 
summer  of  the  year  221.  Certain  pieces  of  a  capital 
discovered  near  that  place  between  the  years  1870- 
1872,  display  the  God  Elagabal  between  Minerva 
and  Urania,  his  second  wife,  which  leads  one  to  the 
conclusion  that  the  union  with  Vesta,  though  no 
longer  of  earthly,  was  at  least  considered  as  one  of 
spiritual  duration. 

But  to  proceed.  By  the  spring  of  221  Antonine 
must  have  discovered  for  himself,  even  if  his 
friends  had  not  told  him,  that  his  religious  ideals 
were  far  from  popular.  The  very  fact  of  the  plot 
was  enough  to  show  him  how  public  opinion  was 
trending,  added  to  which  general  pressure  seems  to 
have  been  put  upon  the  Emperor  to  rectify  the  two 
glaring  mistakes  which  he  had  just  made,  through 
his  perverse  religiosity.  We  know  from  both  Dion 
and  Herodian  that  neither  marriage  lasted  any 
length  of  time.  Numism.atic  evidence  of  his  third 
wedding  is  dated  prior  to  28th  August  221,  which 
presupposes  that  Aquilia  Severa  had  returned  to 
her  nunnery,  while  the  celebration  of  the  nuptials 
between  the  Sun  and  Moon  implies,  what  we  know 
to  be  a  fact,  that  Minerva  had  returned  to  the 
seclusion  from  which  she  ought  never  to  have  been 


taken.  It  must  have  been  a  great  blow  to  the  boy, 
thus  to  rehnquish  his  hold  on  one  of  the  chief  parts 
of  his  scheme,  but  he  had  seen  that  it  would  do 
Elagabal  no  good  to  slight  the  religion  with  which 
the  destinies  of  Rome  were  inextricably  mixed  up, 
and  that  he  had  merely  thrown  open  the  way  to 
his  grandmother's  machinations.  Again,  as  Bor- 
ghesi  has  pointed  out,  probably  Eutychianus  was 
back  at  his  side  as  City  Praefect,  in  which  position 
that  officer  would  be  better  able  to  judge  of  the 
feeling  which  Antonine's  action  had  created,  than 
as  Consul.  The  result  was  that  the  Emperor 
published  a  statement,  by  no  means  conciliatory  in 
character,  which  announced,  that  his  God  liked  not 
so  martial  a  wife,  in  consequence  of  which  he  had 
decided  to  return  her  to  her  own  shrine,  and  send 
for  Astarte  from  Carthage  instead.  Tanit  of  the 
Carthaginians,  Juno  Coelestis  or  Magna  Mater  as 
she  was  called  in  Italy,  where  she  had  grown  in 
importance  from  the  third  century  B.C.,  when  she 
was  first  introduced,  was  probably  a  Phoenician 
Goddess  with  a  cosmopolitan  tendency.  Cumont 
tells  us  that  this  maiden  divinity  was  identified  with 
Diana,  Cybele,  and  sometimes  with  Venus.  Gener- 
ally she  was  called  a  moon  goddess,  certainly  she 
possessed  a  twofold  nature  —  as  queen  of  the 
heavens  she  directed  the  moon  and  stars,  and  sent 
down  life-giving  rains  on  the  earth,  and  as  the  per- 
sonification of  the  productive  force  of  nature,  she 
was  the  patroness  of  fertility.  Latterly  in  Rome 
she  had  been  identified  with  the  cult  of  Mithra,  which 
had  taken  such  a  hold  on  the  popular  mind  and  was 


now  at  the  summit  of  its  power.  Undoubtedly  the 
introduction  of  this  Goddess  into  their  midst, 
especially  since  it  could  hurt  no  local  superstition, 
would  be  a  popular  move,  and  Elagabal  would  gain 
the  reflected  glory ;  at  least  amongst  the  ignorant 
and  religious-minded  to  whom  such  arrant  nonsense 
would  be  sure  to  appeal.  From  the  Emperor's  own 
point  of  view  the  marriage  was  fitting,  since  the  queen 
of  the  heavens  was,  not  only  second  in  authority  to 
the  Sun,  but  was  also  rich,  and  with  her  came  the 
whole  of  her  treasure,  according  to  Herodian.  This 
statement,  however,  Dion  denies  flatly,  asserting 
that  the  Emperor  refused  to  take  anything  from 
her  temple  except  two  golden  lions,  presumably 
as  a  sort  of  protection  for  the  journey,  while 
he  himself  provided  her  dowry  by  a  general  im- 
post on  the  whole  Empire  ;  so  much  for  rival  eye- 

About  this  same  time,  certainly  (as  we  have  said) 
before  28th  August,  Antonine  married  again,  pre- 
sumably at  the  instigation  of  his  grandmother,  and 
to  gain  the  allegiance  of  the  patrician  classes. 
The  bride  was  widow  of  that  busybody  Pomponius 
Bassus,  lately  deceased.  The  alliance,  like  that  of 
the  God,  was  sure  to  be  popular  with  all  classes, 
and  the  lady,  though  by  no  means  in  her  first  youth 
(from  the  portraits  on  her  medals  she  leaves  one 
with  the  impression  of  being  about  forty-five  years 
of  age)  was  of  Imperial  Antonine  lineage.  Un- 
doubtedly the  Emperor  soon  tired  of  her  charms, 
which  were  scarcely  likely  to  please  a  boy  of 
eighteen,  and  in  consequence  we  are  told  he  did  not 


keep  her  long.  She  was  a  friend  of  his  grand- 
mother, a  well-known  and  ambitious  woman,  who 
was  quite  pleased  to  dry  her  eyes  at  once  and  fall 
in  with  Maesa's  plan  of  appointing  a  sort  of  nup- 
tial guardian  for  the  boy,  which  would  naturally  be 
a  great  asset  in  the  struggle  that  his  grandmother 
and  aunt  had  fully  decided  upon,  from  the  moment 
when  he  made  his  mistake  in  underestimating  the 
popular  antipathy  towards  his  unfortunate  religious 

Both  Maesa  and  Mamaea  were  now  working 
together,  for  both  were  determined  to  consolidate  in 
their  hands  the  power  that  was  Antonine's  by  right. 
From  this  moment  there  is  one  continuous  policy  of 
corruption,  vilification,  and  grab,  while  the  women, 
their  greedy  claws  ever  stretching  out,  filch  from  the 
boy  his  popularity,  his  friends,  and  his  reputation. 
Herodian  tells  us  of  the  money  spent  to  corrupt  the 
guards.  Every  word  of  the  biographies  tells  the 
same  story.  Even  when  they  had  encompassed 
his  death  and  put  another  in  his  room  they  could 
not  leave  his  memory  in  peace.  The  trump  card  in 
this  game  was  played  by  Maesa's  diplomacy ;  she 
knew  that  the  only  way  to  win  the  boy  was  to  attach 
herself  to  his  religious  ideals,  and  she  therefore  seems 
to  have  fallen  in  with  his  scheme  for  the  union  of 
Elagabal  and  Urania.  She  sympathised  with  his 
endeavour  to  make  his  God  popular  ;  indeed,  was 
not  Elagabal  her  God  also,  hers  by  right  of  her 
position  as  the  eldest  of  his  hereditary  house  of 
priests  ?  Very  insidiously  she  wormed  her  way 
into  his  boyish  confidence,  lulled  his  mind   to  rest, 

136  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS         chap,  v 

and  then  suggested  her  great  plan,  the  appoint- 
ment of  Alexianus  to  help  him  in  the  government, 
to  assist  in  the  secular  affairs  which  so  sadly 
hampered  the  Emperor's  spiritual  and  sacerdotal 


ANTONINE's    dealings    with    ALEXANDER 

Lampridius  has  given  us,  in  his  life  of  Alexander 
Severus,  a  mass  of  undigested  information  concern- 
ing the  character  and  daily  life  of  Mamaea's  son. 
The  narrative  is  as  much  concerned  to  prove  the 
virtues  of  Alexander  as  it  is  to  represent  the 
degradation  of  his  predecessor.  Somehow  the 
panegyric  misses  fire  ;  Lampridius  has  produced  a 
spasmodic  and  unenlightened  discourse  on  trivial- 
ities, together  with  a  haphazard  essay  on  his  hero's 
moral  qualities.  He  assures  us  that  Alexander  had 
a  regal  presence,  great  flashing  eyes,  a  penetrat- 
ing gaze,  a  manly  appearance,  and  the  stature  and 
health  of  a  soldier.  Now,  the  practice  of  idealising 
the  appearance  of  royalty  is  not  unknown,  even  in 
these  days.  Unfortunately,  this  description  is  in  no 
way  borne  out  by  the  portraits  still  extant.  Alex- 
ander, in  the  Vatican  bust,  has  certainly  the  appear- 
ance of  strength,  but  it  is  such  as  is  possessed  by  a 
lusty  coal-heaver,  with  a  bull  neck  and  a  thick  skull ; 
the  undecided  features  of  the  face,  the  weak  mouth 
and  chin,  the  low  forehead,  half  hidden  by  the  hair, 
all    betoken    mild-mannered    vacuity    rather    than 


138  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

manliness,  while  the  eyes,  so  far  from  flashing,  seem, 
in  the  phrase  of  Duruy,  to  "  stare  without  seeing." 
It  is  the  figure  neither  of  a  Roman  nor  of  a  ruler  of 
men,  but  just  that  possessed  by  the  family  to  which 
he  belonged,  though  cast  in  an  effete  and  much-used 
mould  ;  it  is  the  face  of  a  half-caste  Phoenician,  such 
as  he  chanced  to  be.     Alexander  was  an  absolutely 
perfect  tool   for  the  purposes  of  his  grandmother's 
scheme,   and,   in  consequence,   Lampridius  records 
the  series  of  omens  portending  his  royal  nativity. 
The  entire  menagerie  of  Egypt  seemed  to  proclaim 
him  king.      Surely,  argued  Maesa,  such  evidences 
of  suitability    would    convince    the    truly  religious 
Antonine  ;  and  so,  primed  with  her  proofs,  the  lady 
repaired  to  carry  out  her  scheme.     But,  as  we  have 
said,  the  Emperor  was  used  to  her  wiles ;  she  had 
tried  cajoling  him  before  and  had  failed ;  this  time  it 
was  on  the  score  of  religion,  on  the  necessity  that 
he  should  devote  his  full  energies  to  the  furthering 
of  his   great   and   all-embracing   scheme,  that  she 
attacked   him.      It    is   a    pitiful    sight  for  us,  who 
know  the  results,  to  watch  the  guile  of  the  serpent 
prostituting   innocence  for   its   own   gain.      Maesa 
must  at  this  time  have  been  close  on  fifty  years  of 
age,  and  we  are  assured  on  all  hands  that  she  was 
in  close  alliance  with  her  daughter  Mamaea,  who 
had  long  since   conceived  a  holy  horror,  not  only 
■of  the  sins  of  her  nephew,  but  also  for  the  person  of 
the  sinner.     So  strongly  was  she  convinced  of , her 
righteousness,  that  she  had  already  thought  it  her 
bounden  duty,  as  well  as  her  special  privilege,  to 
attempt  the  corruption  of  the  guards,  and  to  support 


the  plots,  all  and  sundry,  which  disaffected  func- 
tionaries might  attempt  against  the  person  of  the; 

Now,  venality  is  a  vice  not  confined  to  the 
modern  world  ;  then,  as  now,  it  was  possible 
to  find  men  who  considered  that  their  useful- 
ness was  underestimated,  and  that  their  posi- 
tion inadequately  represented  their  merits.  The 
record  of  at  least  three  such  personages  and  their 
attempts  has  come  down  to  us  :  the  first  was  that 
instituted  by  Pomponius  Bassus  and  his  colleague 
Silius  Messala,  who  had  adopted  Mamaea's  line 
of  argument  as  to  the  inadvisability  of  allowing 
Antonine's  mistaken  religious  policy  to  continue  ; 
the  second,  that  of  Seius  Carus,  who  in  221 
attempted  the  corruption  of  the  Alban  Legion  in 
either  his  own  or  Alexianus'  interest — and  in  both 
of  these  plots  we  are  led  to  infer  that  Julia  Mamaea 
had  a  considerable  finger. 

The  question  of  Seius  Carus  is  one  of  consider- 
able interest  from  this  point  of  view.  The  gentle- 
man was  wealthy  and  of  the  patrician  order,  which 
facts  did  not  prevent  him,  according  to  Dion,  from 
spending  his  money  freely  amongst  the  soldiery, 
obviously  with  an  ulterior  motive.  Unfortunately 
for  him,  he  hit  upon  the  wrong  legion,  the 
body  which  was  now  quartered  near  Rome  and 
had  joined  Antonine  so  readily  at  Apamea  in  218. 
In  the  year  220  this  legion  had  set  up  an  inscrip- 
tion to  Antonine's  Victoria  Aeterna,  which  monu- 
ment had  expressed  the  greatest  possible  devotion 
to  the  reigning  Emperor,  and  gave  the  lie  direct  to 


those  stones  of  Dion  and  Lamprldius,  which  assert 
that,  as  early  as  the  winter  of  218,  the  soldiers 
cordially  hated  Antonine,  and  placed  all  their 
hopes  on  Alexianus.  Lampridius  gives  a  very 
poor  reason  for  this — because,  forsooth,  they  could 
not  stand  the  thought  that  he  was  as  ready  as  they 
themselves  were  to  receive  pleasure  through  all 
the  cavities  of  his  body.  Dion  relates  Seius'  trial, 
but  ignoring  the  fact  of  the  plot,  which  he  had  just 
mentioned,  he  informs  us  that  the  gentleman 
suffered  for  a  crime  which  was  absolutely  unknown 
to  the  imperial,  as  indeed  to  any  other  legal 
system,  unless  it  be  the  ecclesiastical — "on  account 
of  his  worth  and  abilities."  Unfortunately,  Dion 
does  not  point  out  why  the  millions  of  other  men  in 
the  Empire,  equally  worthy  and  equally  able,  were 
allowed  a  greater  longevity,  though  it  is  certainly  a 
point  which  might  be  considered  with  some  show  of 
interest.  But  to  return  to  the  imperial  ladies.  As  we 
have  said,  they  were  spending  much  time  searching 
out  disaffected  subjects,  and  repeating  stories  not 
conducive  either  to  peace  or  tranquillity;  further,  they 
were  making  use  of  Antonine's  most  foolish  resolve 
to  cut  down  military  expenditure  at  the  price  of  a 
possible  unpopularity,  by  giving  a  decided  prefer- 
ence to  the  civil  element  in  the  population,  a 
proceeding  which,  as  we  have  remarked  on  more 
than  one  occasion,  was  not  only  foolish  but 
under  the  circumstances  criminally  wrong.  Despite 
the  manifold  and  splendid  qualities  which  soldiers 
possessed,  it  must  be  confessed  that  they  were  as 
eager  for  gain  as  the  average  Hebrew  grocer,  and 


almost  as  ready  to  accept  coins  from  no  matter 
what  tainted  source  they  might  come.  "  Money," 
as  Vespasian  had  said,  "  has  no  smell,"  a  sentiment 
with  which  most  men  were  in  entire  agreement. 

This  is  a  very  fair  view  of  the  state  of  politics 
about  the  month  of  June,  in  the  year  of  our  Lord 
221.  at   which    time    the    Dowager- Empress    pro- 
pounded   her    scheme ;    an    attempt,    she    said,    to 
transfer  the  odium  of  Antonine's  neglect  in  secular 
matters  to  other  shoulders,  and  so  to  set  the  boy  free 
to  carry  out  his  great  policy  for  the  advancement 
of  religious  unity  throughout    the   world.       Maesa 
certainly  agreed  with  her  grandson's  point  of  view, 
or   said   she   did,   which   came   to  the   same   thing. 
The  work   which   he  had  proposed  was  great  and 
important,  and  it  had  been  neglected  for  the  good  of 
the  state.     Now,  to  neglect  the  great  God  angered 
him  to  whom  the  family  owed  their  position.     To 
neglect  the  affairs  of  state  angered  the  people,  and 
gave  rise  to  disturbances  ;  of  this  Antonine  had  had 
recent  examples.     Surely  it  would  be  advisable  to 
appoint  a  coadjutor  in  the  affairs  of  state,  and,  for 
obvious  reasons,  one  of  his  own  family,  some  one 
who  would  naturally  have  no  other  desire  than  to 
serve   Antonine ;    there   was   a   relative   ready   and 
willing.     Why  did  he  not  adopt  Alexianus  ?     Per- 
haps  the   boy   was   insignificant !      Well,    so   much 
the  better  ;  but  at  any  rate  he   might   be  used  to 
advantage.      All  this  was  most   plausible,  and  may 
have   blinded   the    Emperor   for   the   moment,   but 
we   can   easily  understand,  from  what    we  know  of 
Antonine's    nature,   that   even   if  he   saw   through 


the  very  specious  pleas  here  put  forward,  he  would 
quite  enjoy  meeting  his  grandmother  on  her  own 
ground.  He  had  done  it  before,  and  had  played 
the  game  successfully. 

But  the  suggestion  seems  to  have  really  appealed 
to  his  sense  of  the  fitting  ;  he  was  hard  pressed ; 
he  was  more  anxious  for  the  fate  of  his  God  than 
for  the  fate  of  the  Empire  (a  crime  for  which  other 
sovereigns  have  suffered  similar  fates  at  the  hands 
of  infuriated  populaces),  besides  which,  Dion  tells 
us  that  Antonine  loved  his  cousin,  stupid  and 
namby-pamby  as  he  undoubtedly  was. 

And  there  was  yet  another  side  to  the  suggestion 
which  commended  itself  to  the  Emperor's  favourable 
consideration.  In  his  present  position  Alexianus 
was  a  distinct  menace  to  the  government.  Since 
Antonine's  mistake  about  Vesta  and  Severa,  his 
cousin  had  been  used  as  a  lever  wherewith  to  raise 
popular  indignation.  There  had  been  two  plots,  as 
we  have  pointed  out,  to  dethrone  Antonine  ;  and, 
presumably,  as  Julia  Mamaea  was  behind  both,  to 
replace  him  by  Alexianus.  Why  not  take  the  boy 
into  his  own  keeping,  adopt  him  as  Maesa  sug- 
gested, and,  by  taking  their  tool  from  their  hands  in 
response  to  their  own  appeal,  neutralise  the  influ- 
ence of  both  aunt  and  grandmother  at  one  swoop  .-* 
He  could  then  train  him  in  his  own  way.  Alex- 
ianus was  young — Herodian  says  about  twelve  years 
old — and  ought,  if  he  were  a  natural  child,  to  be 
easily  won  by  kindness,  friendship,  and  joy.  This 
information  of  Herodian's  as  to  age  is,  for  a 
wonder,  corroborated   by  several   reliable  sources ; 

riiyalir.i  Coin  of  lilatiahalus  (  Mrilisli  Museum) 

Coin  struck  lo  conuneiuoiatt:  Alexianus"  adoption,  A.D.  221 
(British  Museum). 

Coin  struck  to  icimiuemorate  AlcN.inder  as  Pont.  Max..  .\.i'. 
([British  Museum). 

h'luc  page  14Z. 


not  that  Herodian  knew  he  was  right  even  in  this 
case,  because  he  puts  the  adoption  in  the  year  220 
instead  of  221,  which  would  have  made  Alexianus 
about  eleven  instead  of  over  twelve  years  old,  as  he 

This  is  the  only  rational  view  to  take  of  the 
Emperor's  apparent  gullibility,  as  Antonine  was  far 
too  quick-witted  not  to  have  scented  trouble  in  any 
scheme,  however  specious,  to  which  his  aunt  was 
party.  He  had  already  heard  of  her  dealings  with 
the  soldiers,  and  of  the  money  that  she  was  spend- 
ing with  a  purpose:  obviously  he  saw  in  the  adoption 
a  loophole  for  his  own  escape,  and  at  the  same  time 
for  her  undoing.  His  friends  may  have  warned 
him  to  look  out  for  rocks  ahead.  They  knew  that 
the  boy  was  dealing  with  two  able  and  crafty  women 
made  desperate  by  their  continual  disappointments; 
if  so,  he  must  have  refused  to  listen  to  them,  for 
some  time  early  in  July  Antonine  took  his  cousin 
Alexianus  to  the  Senate,  and  there,  in  the  presence 
of  the  women,  this  boy  of  sixteen  summers  went 
through  the  ceremony  of  adopting  the  child  of  twelve. 
He  then  solemnly  declared  his  intention  of  training 
his  son  himself,  fitting  him  for  the  business  of 
Empire  early,  in  order  that  he  might  be  free  from 
solicitudes  about  a  successor.  Now,  this  was  by  no 
means  Mamaea's  plan,  and  caused  endless  friction 
in  the  working, 

Antonine  obviously  thought  that  some  explana- 
tion of  his  decision  was  needed,  and  had  the 
audacity  to  tell  the  assembled  fathers  that  he  was 
acting   on   the  commands   of  the   great   God,  who 

144  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

had  designated  Alexianus  as  the  successor  to  the 
name  and  Empire  of  Severus, — this  on  the  basis  of 
a  bastardy  almost  as  probable  as  his  own. 

The  name  Alexander,  which  was  then  imposed 
upon  Alexianus,  is  accounted  for  both  by  Lampridius 
and  Dion  by  two  equally  untrue  and  mutually  contra- 
dictory stories.  Lampridius  says  that  the  boy  was 
born  in  the  temple  of  Alexander  at  Area,  on  the 
birthday  of  Alexander  of  Macedon,  i8th  June  208  ; 
as  a  matter  of  fact  he  was  not  born  until  the 
I  St  October  of  that  year,  and  it  was  highly  im- 
probable that  a  woman  in  the  social  position  of 
Mamaea  would  allow  an  accident  of  the  kind  to 
happen  in  so  public  and  unprepared  a  position. 
Dion  accounts  for  the  new  name  by  relating  the 
miraculous  return  from  the  dead  of  the  Macedonian 
king,  and  his  spectral  journey  through  Thrace,  where 
he  buried  a  wooden  horse  which  has  not  since  been 
found, — neither  has  the  consonance  of  the  -story 
been  established,  for  that  matter.  The  real  reason 
for  the  change  of  name  was  perfectly  simple  ;  it  was 
in  memory  of  the  devotion  which  Caracalla,  his 
putative  father,  had  always  testified  towards  King 
Alexander  of  Macedon. 

The  ages  of  the  two  principal  figures  in  this 
ceremony  form  the  peg  on  which  Lampridius  hangs 
not  a  few  jeers.  Perhaps  it  was  absurd,  but  far 
more  unnatural  things  had  been  extolled  :  witness 
Septimius'  adoption  of  the  defunct  Marcus  Aurelius 
as  his  father,  which  was  certainly  an  even  less  pos- 
sible performance  in  the  natural  order  of  generation. 
If  Lampridius  jeered   later,  no  one  did  so  at  the 


time  ;  in  fact,  we  are  led  to  infer  that  all  men  were 
pleased.  The  soldiers,  because  Mamaea  had  made 
it  worth  their  while  to  adopt  that  attitude ;  the 
Senate,  because  they  expected  consideration  from  a 
little  milksop  brought  up  entirely  at  his  mother's 
apron  -  strings  ;  the  people,  because  it  was  the 
occasion  for  Antonine's  fourth  congiary.  Singularly 
enough,  there  is  again  no  mention  made  of  a  dona- 
tive, or  distribution  of  money  to  the  soldiers,  which 
seems  unfortunate. 

It  is  difficult  to  ascertain  the  exact  date  of  the 
adoption.  Herodian's  statement  of  the  year  220  is 
easily  refuted,  both  by  epigraphic  and  numismatic 
evidence.  These  give,  as  near  as  posible,  loth 
July  in  the  year  221,  by  means  of  the  following 
deductions: — (ist)  The  fasti  of  a  priestly  college, 
probably  the  Sodales  Antoniniani,  dated  either 
2nd  or  loth  July  in  that  year,  describe  Alexianus 
as  "  Marcus  Aurelius  Alexander  Nobilissimus 
Caesar,"  and  either  Imperii  co7isors  or  hcres,  on 
which  discrepancy  of  words  hangs  a  future  tale  : 
(2nd)  the  earliest  Alexandrian  coins  which  call 
Alexianus  Caesar  are  dated  J^,  or  subsequent  to 
29th  August  221;  (3rd)  there  is  an  inscription 
found  amongst  those  of  the  7th  Cohort  of  the 
Vigiles,  which  was  set  up  on  ist  June  of  that  year, 
and  commemorates  the  Imperatores  Antoninus  et 
Alexander.  The  earliest  date  is  therefore  ist  June, 
the  latest  the  end  of  July  or  beginning  of  August. 
The  probabilities  lie  between  the  two.  as  the  early 
police  inscription  has  been  accounted  for  on  the 
grounds  that,  along  with  her  money,  Mamaea  had 


146  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

circulated  a  report  of  the  adoption  before  it  took 
place.  The  numismatic  evidence  points  to  a  middle 
date,  because,  as  far  as  we  can  judge,  the  Alex- 
andrian mint  was  most  expedite  in  issuing  its  coins, 
and  here,  if  the  adoption  took  place  early  in  June, 
they  would  seem  to  have  allowed  a  month  or  so  to 
elapse  between  the  time  they  got  the  news  and  the 
first  issue  of  the  coins.  Other  mints  also  issued 
their  first  coins,  calling  Alexander  Caesar,  towards 
the  end  of  221. 

The  one  official  decree  is  that  of  the  Sodales.  It 
is  defective  in  its  designation,  and  has  caused  much 
disagreement  both  as  to  Alexander's  position  once 
he  was  adopted,  as  well  as  about  the  date  of  the 
ceremony  itself.  At  any  rate,  until  more  definite 
information  comes  to  hand,  we  are  forced  to  be 
content  with  the  generally  received  date,  somewhere 
about  loth  July.  The  next  question  is  as  to  the 
position  of  Alexander  after  that  date,  in  the  year 

221.  Certainly  Maesa  and  Mamaea  intended  to 
have  him  "Imperii  consors."  As  far  as  we  can  judge, 
both  from  the  statement  in  the  Senate  and  from  his 
subsequent  proceedings  in  the  state,  Antonine's 
intention  was  to  adopt  an  "  Imperii  heres  "  ;  now, 
this  was  a  very  different  matter,  and  entirely 
nullified  the  major  part  of  the  plan  of  the  schemers. 
Antonine  certainly  did  defeat  their  plot  in  part 
by  refusing  to  give  Alexander  any  governmental 
powers.  This  Is  certain  from  the  fact  that  on  no 
coin  does  Alexander  appear  with  the  Imperial  insig- 
nia (the  laurel  wreath)  before  the  month  of  March 

222,  though    the    titles    which  he   received   at   his 


adoption — Augustus,  Imperator,  and  Caesar — are 
frequently  used  before  that  date,  because  Antonine 
never  had  the  least  objection  to  other  people  using 
titles,  so  long  as  he  kept  the  power.  Maesa  and 
Mamaea  must  have  been  wild  with  rage  at  having 
gained  so  little  ;  they  had  shaken  hands  repeatedly, 
and  congratulated  themselves  so  often  because 
Samson  had  at  last  delivered  himself  bound  into 
their  hands  and  henceforth  they  were  in  permanent 
possession  of  the  administration,  that  it  must  have 
been  a  very  disagreeable  awakening  when  they 
found  that  their  plan  had  not  succeeded. 

If  we  can  believe  anything  that  Lampridius  says, 
we   would   judge    that    Maesa  was   now  genuinely 
frightened.     She  thought  that  Antonine's  religious 
mistake  had  created  a  real  wave  of  bad  feeling  in 
the  city,  and  that,  if  anything  should  happen  to  the 
reigning  Emperor,  her  position  would  be  gone  for 
good  and  all.      Now,  the  last  thing  that  she  had  a 
mind  to  do  was  to  return  to  provincial  obscurity. 
With   a  patience   and    determination   worthy   of  a 
better  cause,  she  set  to  work  to  gain  for  herself,  and 
incidentally  for  Alexander  also,  what  had  not  accrued 
when  the  adoption  took  place.    As  far  as  we  can  judge 
from  the  coins,  Maesa  had  only  managed  at  that  time 
to  obtain  his  association  with  Antonine  as  Pontifex 
Maximus,  thereby  lessening  the  Emperor's  authority 
over  the  Roman  cults,  for  which  he  had  shown  so 
little  respect.     One  thing  was,  however,  satisfactory : 
Alexander  was  "out";  people  knew  about  him  in 
Rome  ;  he  was  the  heir  designate,  and,  as  such,  a 
most  useful  lever  in  the  hands  of  the  unscrupulous. 

148  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

It  was  certainly  not  long  before  Antonine  found 
that  his  success  had  not  been  as  unqualified  as  he  had 
imagined.  Alexander  was  Caesar  by  decree  of  the 
Senate ;  Severus  by  some  utterly  unconstitutional 
decree  of  the  army ;  Antonini  filius  and  Severi 
Nepos ;  but  here  it  began  and  ended.  The  boy 
was  utterly  unresponsive  to  the  affection  that 
Antonine  was  anxious  to  lavish  upon  him  ;  utterly 
incapable,  so  the  Emperor  said,  of  any  sort  of  train- 
ing for  the  position  he  was  destined  to  occupy. 
Undoubtedly  a  great  mistake  had  been  made,  the 
boy  was  a  born  prig,  and  the  Emperor  had  given 
his  case  away  by  adopting  him  at  all,  by  putting 
him  into  a  position  in  which  his  popularity  was 
bound  to  increase  amongst  those  who  did  not  know 
him  personally.  In  fact,  Antonine  arrived  at  the 
conclusion  before  the  wine  harvest  that  he  had 
played  his  aunt's  game  and  not  his  own,  and  in 
consequence  he  became  moody  and  uncomfortable. 

Lampridius'  contrast  of  the  two  characters  is,  as 
we  have  said,  a  caricature  drawn  for  the  laudation 
of  the  younger,  the  reprobation  of  the  elder.  If 
only  a  part  is  true,  it  must  have  been  very  annoy- 
ing for  the  Emperor  of  seventeen  to  be  saddled, 
through  his  own  stupidity,  with  a  nincompoop  of 
twelve,  a  boy  who  quoted  proverbs  to  a  purpose^ 
and  the  maxims  of  a  detestable  crowd  of  female 
relatives  at  every  turn.  Of  course,  Lampridius' 
likeness  of  his  little  hero  is  stocked  with  ful- 
some adulation.  One  would  think,  on  reading 
it,  that  there  was  at  least  one  person  in  the  world 
who  did  not  deceive  himself  when  he  said  that  he 


was  without  sin,  and  therefore  ready  to  cast  the 
first  stone.  The  account  of  his  first  meeting  with 
the  Senate  is  simply  ludicrous  ;  no  child,  however 
disgusting,  could  have  displayed  the  unction  and 
greasiness  which  is  recorded  as  having  slipped  off 
his  tongue.  Were  he  one-half  as  nasty  as  Lam- 
pridius  asserts,  we  can  well  imagine  that  the  whole 
devil  in  Antonine  was  striving  to  get  hold  of  his 
cousin's  prejudices,  trying  to  persuade  him  to  run, 
dance,  play,  to  wake  him  up  from  the  self-satisfac- 
tion which  so  ill  became  his  years.  All  of  this,  we 
are  told,  Antonine  did,  under  the  generic  terms  of 
corrupting  his  morals,  which  is  after  all  the  sum 
total  of  Antonine's  enormities. 

But  here  Mamaea  stepped  in.  She  had  spoilt 
her  son's  youth,  as  many  another  parent  has  done 
both  before  and  since,  and  was  not  going  to  stand 
by  and  see  her  work  dissipated,  blown  to  the  winds. 
Not  that  she  need  have  feared.  The  Bassiani  de- 
veloped young  ;  Alexander's  character  was  moulded, 
and  he  had  no  desire  to  change,  to  live  his  life 
as  a  man,  instead  of  as  a  vegetable,  or  enjoy  the 
gifts  which  the  gods  had  given  to  men.  Antonine 
had  thought  that  something  might  be  done  lor 
the  cousin  he  pitied,  by  turning  him  loose ;  he 
found  it  was  no  good,  and  soon  lost  patience. 
He  then  realised  the  trend  of  affairs  ;  he  saw  the 
growing  inlluence  of  the  women,  the  stupidity  of 
the  boy,  and  chafed  more  each  day  under  both. 
The  nonconformist  conscience,  which  was  Ale.x- 
ander's  chief  attraction,  and  is  still  his  only  title  to 
fame,  annoyed  the  Emperor  continually.      Friction 


arose  at  every  turn.  It  was  Antonine  striving  to 
minimise  the  influence  of  the  women,  and  the 
women  striving  to  destroy  the  influence  of  An- 
tonine, together  with  his  crew  of  wretched  favour- 
ites. Neither  did  the  elderly  Annia  Faustina  tend 
to  mend  matters.  She  as  well  as  Alexander  had 
been  a  mistake,  and  so  the  Emperor  resolved  to  get 
rid  of  both  his  troubles  at  one  swoop.  To  do  this, 
however,  he  had  to  quarrel  openly  with  his  relatives, 
and  by  a  coup  dUtat  regain  paramount  authority  in 
the  state.  The  question  was,  would  he  be  strong 
enough  ?  Would  a  boy  of  seventeen,  surrounded 
by  friends  who,  however  agreeable  as  sportsmen, 
however  able  in  the  histrionic  art  were  anything 
but  trained  politicians,  have  much  chance  of 
regaining  what  statecraft,  diplomacy,  and  guile  had 
filched  from  him  at  a  moment  when  he  was  com- 
paratively helpless  ? 

His  first  act  was  to  follow  the  same  tactics  that 
he  had  adopted  on  loth  July.  He  sent  to  the 
Senate  ordering  the  fathers  to  withdraw  the  title 
of  Caesar  which  he  had  conferred  on  Alexander 
and  which  they  had  confirmed.  That  august 
assembly,  we  are  told,  preserved  a  discreet  silence, 
not  quite  knowing  whom  to  please,  or  which  way  the 
strongest  cat  was  going  to  jump.  Here,  after  all 
that  the  author  has  said  about  Alexander's  popular- 
ity and  the  general  hatred  testified  towards  An- 
tonine, occurs  a  strange  statement.  Lampridius,says 
they  were  silent  because,  "according  to  certain  per- 
sons, Alexander  was  popular  with  the  army."  This, 
as  we  see,  is  a  much-qualified  expression  of  opinion 


I  =5  1 

when  compared  with  those  in  the  foregoing  sections, 
and  put  in  conjunction  with  the  Senate's  reluctance 
to  commit  itself  one  way  or  another,  it  is  cer- 
tainly significant,  and  points  to  the  fact  that  the  real 
hatred  towards  the  Emperor  had  yet  to  be  worked 
up,  like  the  similar  hatred  towards  the  aristocracy 
in  this  country.  Another  significant  fact  concerning 
the  Emperor's  honest  and  straightforward  intentions 
towards  his  cousin  is,  that  right  up  to  the  last  he 
seems  to  have  had  command  of  the  boy's  person, 
and  never  took  any  decisive  measure,  either  openly 
or  secretly  —  in  the  usual  Antonine  fashion  —  for 
removing  him  to  another  sphere  of  usefulness  in 
realms  celestial,  despite  the  plots  formed  against  his 
own  life,  of  which,  before  now,  he  had  had  ample 

It  is  probable  that  about  this  time  Antonine  made 
several  official  appointments  which  were  considered 
thoroughly  bad  by  the  older  politicians.  Names 
are  not  mentioned,  but  we  can  well  believe  that  the 
Emperor  had  grown  suspicious  of  his  old  advisers 
ever  since  he  had  seen  them  paying  court  to  the 
young  Caesar  and  his  mother.  We  are  told  that 
he  put  men  into  offices,  especially  those  about  the 
palace,  who,  from  a  personal  and  too  intimate 
relation,  he  felt  he  could  rely  on.  As  ever,  such 
appointments  are  a  gross  mistake.  As  mere  friends 
such  men  would  have  tended  to  his  undoing  ;  as 
officials  they  tended  to  revolution. 

Following  up  his  command  to  the  Senate,  Anto- 
nine sent  messengers  to  the  army.  These  demanded 
that   the   soldiery  should  relieve  Alexander  of  the 

152  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

title  of  Severus,  or  Caesar,  or  whatever  designation 
they  had  taken  upon  themselves  to  confer  on  the 
boy,  while  the  same  messengers  were  ordered  to 
deface  the  statues  and  inscriptions  in  the  camp,  as 
the  customx  was  to  treat  those  of  dethroned  tyrants. 
Now,  this  was  unwise,  without  so  much  as  by  your 
leave,  or  with  your  leave,  because  the  property 
belonged  to  the  regiments,  and  not  to  the  Emperor. 
Next  in  order  comes  the  record  of  an  attempt 
made  by  Antonine  to  assassinate  his  cousin.  It 
is  a  story  which  requires  careful  examination, 
because  Herodian  never  mentions  it  at  all,  and 
Dion  only  refers  to  it  casually  in  the  following 
words  :  "  Much  as  Sardanapalus  loved  his  cousin, 
when  he  began  to  suspect  everybody  and  learnt 
that  the  general  feeling  was  veering  towards 
Alexander,  he  dared  to  change  his  resolution,  and 
did  all  in  his  power  to  get  rid  of  him.  He  tried 
one  day  to  have  him  assassinated,  and  not  only 
did  not  succeed,  but  nearly  lost  his  own  life  in 
the  attempt."  Lampridius  is,  of  course,  much 
more  explicit.  This  we  might  expect,  because  he 
lived  so  much  later  and  had  a  century  of  vilification 
to  work  upon  as  well  as  Dion's  official  story. 
From  him  we  learn  that  Antonine  sent  men  to 
assassinate  Alexander,  and  also  sent  letters  to  the 
boy's  governors  (all  of  whom,  be  it  remembered, 
were  of  Mamaea's  appointment  and  consequently 
were  working  for  her,  not  for  Antonine)  with 
promises  of  wealth  and  honours  if  they  would 
only  kill  their  charge  in  any  way  they  thought  best, 
either  in  the  bath,  by  poison,  or  the  sword. 

yi       DEALINGS  WITH  ALEXANDER     153 

This  policy  of  bovine  artfulness  accomplished, 
Antonine  went  to  his  gardens  in  the  suburbs 
{ad  spem  vetere^n)  for  an  afternoon's  exercise  in 
chariot  -  driving,  certainly  without  any  sufficient 
guard.  At  this  juncture  Lampridius  stops  his 
fantastic  story  of  the  most  futile  attempt  at  assassi- 
nation ever  recorded,  in  order  to  utter  a  few 
sententious  platitudes,  which,  however,  cut  both 
ways.  He  remarks  with  a  verisimilitude  of 
sincerity,  that  "  the  wicked  can  do  nothing  against 
the  innocent."  Now  this  is  a  maxim  which  is  not 
always  regarded  as  a  truism,  even  on  the  Stock 
Exchange,  but  it  was  a  convenient  way  of  account- 
ing for  the  incomprehensible  ending  to  this  absurd 

Lampridius  then  continues  that  the  promulgation 
of  these  orders,  as  carried  to  the  soldiers,  did  not 
increase  the  popularity  of  the  Emperor,  at  any  rate 
amongst  that  party  who  were  in  Mamaea's  pay ; 
besides  which,  fratricide  was  by  no  means  a  popular, 
even  when  it  was  a  fashionable  crime.  The  result 
of  these  two  supposed  epistles  when  communicated 
to  the  soldiers  (by  whom  or  why  is  unfortunately 
not  mentioned)  was  to  rouse  them  to  the  highest 
pitch  of  anger.  Quite  spontaneously  they  ran, 
some  to  the  palace,  where  Alexander  was  living 
with  his  mother,  and  some  to  the  gardens,  where, 
also  by  some  unexplained  power  of  divination,  they 
knew  they  would  find  Antonine ;  their  intention 
being  to  carry  out  Mamaea's  wishes  on  the  person 
of  the  Emperor  without  further  delay.  Soaemias, 
we  are  told,  followed  them  on  foot  with  the  design 


154  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

of  warning  her  son  concerning  the  danger  that 
threatened  him.  Antonine  was  preparing  for  a 
chariot  race  when  he  heard  the  noise  approach- 
ing, and  being  frightened,  says  Lampridius,  he 
hid  in  the  doorway  of  his  bedroom,  behind  the 
curtain  ;  surely  not  a  very  safe  place  to  hide  when 
thoroughly  frightened  by  an  angry  mob,  and 
quite  unlike  his  usual  procedure  in  times  of  danger. 
Next  he  sent  his  praefect  Antiochianus  to  find 
out  the  reason  of  the  tumult.  This  man  easily 
managed  to  dissuade  the  soldiers  from  their  murder- 
ous designs,  and  recalled  them  to  their  oaths, 
because,  as  Lampridius  naively  remarks,  they  were 
too  few  in  number ;  the  greater  part  having  refused 
to  leave  their  standard,  which  Aristomachus  had 
kept  out  of  the  treasonable  attempt. 

At  last  Antonine's  eyes  were  fully  opened  to  his 
danger.  He  now  knew  how  far  Mamaea's  money 
and  persuasions  had  gone,  and  whither  the  influence 
of  Maesa  was  tending.  There  had  been  a  military 
rising ;  not  strong  enough  to  effect  its  purpose, 
it  is  ti-ue,  but  still  able  to  cause  confusion,  strife, 
and  divided  allegiance  in  the  city,  and  set  people's 
tongues  wagging. 

The  Emperor  seems  to  have  made  up  his  mind  at 
once  as  to  his  line  of  conduct.  With  a  courage 
almost  unprecedented  in  a  boy  of  his  age,  he  went 
straight  to  the  camp,  resolved  to  show  himself 
in  their  midst  and  settle  this  matter,  once  and  for 
all,  with  the  Praetorians.  It  was  undoubtedly  one 
of  the  finest  acts  of  courage  in  his  life,  this  going 
alone   and  unprotected    into  the   midst  of  a  camp 



which  was  supposed  to  be  in  mutiny  ;  a  camp  where 
he  had  just  learnt  that  at  least  a  section  of  the  men 
were  in  his  aunt's  pay,  and  to  which,  if  Lampridius' 
statement  is  correct,  his  aunt,  cousin,  and  grand- 
mother had  just  retired  for  safety.  Surely  to  go 
there  utterly  unprotected  was  simply  courting  the 
assassination  he  had  so  narrowly  avoided,  was 
making  death  absolutely  certain,  unless  he  knew 
that  the  number  of  the  disaffected  was  very  small, 
and  that  Lampridius'  statement  about  the  imperial 
family  and  their  journey  thither  was  pure  fiction. 
There  is  not  much  doubt,  however,  despite  the 
biographer,  that  they  were  still  in  the  palace,  and 
would  rather  have  died  than  go  to  the  camp,  lest 
the  Emperor  should  learn  of  their  part  in  the 

There  is  yet  another  discrepancy  between  the 
account  of  Dion  and  that  of  Lampridius  ;  the  latter 
says  that  Alexander  was  in  the  camp  for  safety,  the 
former  is  equally  sure  that  Antonine  took  him  with 
him  when  he  went  to  find  out  the  reason  of  the 
disturbance.  Be  this  as  it  may,  Dion  states  that 
the  arrival  of  the  Emperor  put  a  stop  to  the 
trouble,  and  that  there  was  a  conference,  at  which 
Alexander's  name  was  never  mentioned.  The 
subject  of  complaint  and  mutiny  was,  that  certain 
freedmen  had  been  appointed  to  offices  for  which, 
in  all  probability,  there  had  been  candidates  better 
qualified  than  the  Emperor's  friends.  With  a  con- 
siderable amount  of  good  sense,  Antonine  acceded 
to  the  soldiers'  demands ;  he  dismissed  four  out 
of  the  five  persons  mentioned,  amongst  whom  were 



Gordius,  from  the  praefecture  of  the  night  watch, 
Murissimus,  from  an  unknown  office,  and  two  other 
friends,  "  who,  mad  as  he  was,  made  him  madder." 
Hierocles'  name  was  also  mentioned,  but  the 
Emperor  refused  to  Hsten  to  it ;  "he  would  die,"  he 
said,  "  rather  than  give  up  Hierocles,  whatever 
they  might  think  of  his  usefulness,"  and  this  was 
all.  Antonine  had  recognised  a  grievance  and 
remedied  it;  after  which,  in  all  probability,  the 
affair  was  dealt  with  by  the  regimental  court- 
martial  as  usual. 

A  comparison  between  Dion's  account  of  this 
"terrible  uproar"  and  Lampridius'  account  of  the 
futility  of  the  whole  proceeding  leaves  one  with  the 
impression  that  once  again  Mamaea  had  failed  in  a 
dastardly  attempt  on  Antonine's  life.  It  is  unthink- 
able that  any  assassin,  however  stupid,  would  have 
warned  the  friends  of  his  enemy  concerning  his 
proposed  attempt,  as  both  Herodian  and  Lampridius 
testify  that  Antonine  did.  Herodian,  speaking 
generally  of  Antonine's  plots  against  Alexander,  says 
that  "the  Emperor  was  of  so  shallow  and  wicked 
a  character  that  he  announced  openly  and  without 
precaution  what  was  in  his  mind,  and  did  the  same 
without  any  concealment."  Lampridius  says  that 
he  had  the  foolishness  to  write  to  the  boy's 
guardians  and  tell  them  to  do  the  deed. 

As  to  the  whole  arrangement  being  a  plot  of 
Mamaea's,  there  is  much  more  to  be  said.  It  would 
certainly  not  be  to  her  advantage  if  Alexander's 
adoption  was  annulled:  that  project  must  be  stopped 
at  all  costs ;  why,  therefore,  should  she  not  circulate 



the  report  that  Antonine  was  plotting  a  definite  act 
against  his  cousin  on  a  certain  day  ?  She  chose 
a  day  when,  as  she  knew,  the  Emperor  would  be  in 
a  quiet  spot  and  defenceless.  She  could  pay  for  a 
military  rising,  which,  being  quite  a  usual  occur- 
rence, would  account  for  everything,  and  then  her 
troubles  would  be  over,  her  position  secure  for  her 
lifetime.  Unfortunately  for  her,  Soaemias  heard 
of  the  plan  and  went  to  warn  her  son.  When  she 
got  to  the  gardens,  she  found  that  Mamaea's 
money  had  not  bought  sufficient  people,  and  that 
the  attempt  was  frustrated.  If  there  had  been 
any  real  attempt  made  by  an  unpopular  Emperor 
against  a  popular  associate,  some  definite  arrange- 
ment would  have  been  come  to  as  regards  the 
protection  of  the  person  threatened,  but,  as  far 
as  we  can  see,  things  went  on  just  as  usual.  The 
Emperor  still  had  command  of  the  boy's  person, 
after  as  before  the  rising,  and  the  family  still 
lived  on  in  the  palace,  trying  to  brazen  out  their 
treachery,  facts  which  give  the  lie  to  Lampridius' 
remark  that  special  regulations  were  made  to  keep 
the  boys  apart,  as  well  as  for  Alexander's  safety. 

There  is  a  phrase  in  Dion  which  is  fairly 
conclusive  as  to  the  attitude  which  his  family 
were  adopting  towards  Antonine  at  this  period. 
It  reads :  "  this  time "  (in  the  camp  conference, 
where  it  will  be  remembered  that  the  soldiers  never 
mentioned  putting  their  Emperor  to  death  at  all) 
"  he  obtained  mercy,  though  with  difficulty,  because 
his  grandmother  hated  him  on  account  of  his  conduct, 
and  because,  not  being  even  the  son  of  Antonine 



(Caracalla),    her    inclination    was   veering    towards 
Alexander,  as  if  he  had  been  in  reality  the  issue 
of  that  prince."     This  is  a  very  fair  indication  of 
the  stories  by  means  of  which  these  women  were 
trying  to  ruin  the  boy  ;  stories  inspired  by  hatred. 
It  seems  that  they  were  perfectly  willing  to  do  any- 
thing, to  say  anything,  to  contradict  anything,  they 
had  formerly  said,  to  spend  anything,  if  only  they 
could  collect  a  faction  strong  enough  to  support  their 
schemes  of  replacing  Antonine  by  Alexander.     Here 
is  a  good  attempt  to  crush  his  popularity  by  denying 
what  they  had  formerly  stated  so  enthusiastically — 
the  bastardy  of  Varius — and  affirming  instead  that 
of  Alexianus  as  being  the  only  genuine   example  ; 
in    fact,    they    were    limiting    the    performances   of 
Caracalla  to  the   unattractive  sister,   and   denying 
Soaemias'   position.      If  they  could   do  that,   they 
were   more   than   capable   of  working    up    fury   by 
reports  of  a  definite  attempt  on  the  only  genuine 
bastard's  life,  and  thus  justify  their  attempt  in  the 
Gardens  of  Hope.     The  net  result  of  this  plot,  by 
whomsoever  instituted,  was  the  retirement  of  Alex- 
ander from  public  notice.      Herodian  states  that  he 
was  deprived  of  his  honours.     This,  however,  cannot 
mean  what  the  mendacious  author  seems  to  imply  ; 
namely,  that  Antonine  took  from  him  his  titles  of 
Caesar  and   Imperator,  as  both  these  occur  on  the 
JVIonza  military  diploma  issued  on  7th  January  222, 
and  on  the  majority  of  the  coins  issued  up  to  the 
death  of  Antonine  in  the  spring  of  that  year.     Mere 
empty  titles  were,  however,  of  little  or  no   use  to 
the  imperial  ladies. 


dp:alings  with  Alexander   159 

Defeated  as  they  had  been  in  one  scheme,  their 
ingenuity  turned  to  yet  another  means  of  destroying 
the  Emperor's  authority.  The  attempt  above 
mentioned  cannot  be  dated  precisely,  but  we  may 
infer  from  Lampridius'  arrangement  of  his  matter, 
that  it  was  between  the  wine  harvest  and  the  ist 
of  January,  on  which  date  Mamaea  made  her  last 
and  successful  attempt  to  get  her  son  into  a  definite 
political  position.  During  the  interval,  both  Dion 
and  Lampridius  assure  us,  with  tears  in  their  eyes, 
that  the  Emperor  made  daily  attempts  on  the  life 
of  his  cousin  :  a  life  so  useful,  so  necessary  to  the 

To  circumvent  these  Mamaea  refused  to  allow 
Alexander  to  eat  anything  from  the  imperial  kitchens 
and  set  up  a  kitchen  and  establishment  of  her  own 
in  the  palace,  an  arrangement  which  would  scarcely 
have  been  sanctioned  by  Antonine  if  he  had  had  any 
definite  murderous  object  in  view,  because  it  would 
have  interfered  too  materially  with  such  plans.  But 
there  was  obviously  some  gross  negligence  afoot. 
Any  resolute  ruler,  given  a  couple  of  days  (even 
without  Locusta's  famous  stew  of  poison  and  mush- 
rooms, which  Nero,  in  allusion  to  Claudius'  apoth- 
eosis, called  the  food  of  the  Gods),  would  have  given 
the  lie  to  that  pious  generalisation  of  Lampridius 
about  the  impotence  of  the  wicked,  and  done  it  in 
much  the  same  manner  that  Nero,  Domitian,  Com- 
modus,  and  Caracalla  had  done;  not  to  mention  others 
whose  names  it  would  be  invidious  to  bring  forward, 
but  who  still  firmly  believe  that  the  wicked,  when 
suitably  backed,  have  a  certain  power  in  this  world 



of  woe,  the  wicked  naturally  being  those  whom  we 
personally  dislike.  Antonine  seems  to  have  been 
quite  indifferent  as  to  what  was  going  on;  he  knew 
that  his  position  was  precarious  ;  Syrian  divines  had 
told  him  that  his  doom  was  near ;  in  consequence  of 
which  he  prepared  several  devices  for  a  unique 
and  splendid  suicide  ;  and  lived  his  life,  a  life  in  which 
the  spintries  —  a  form  of  amusement  with  which 
Tiberius  had  refreshed  an  equally  worried  frame — 
figured  largely,  along  with  other  equally  repre- 
hensible enjoyments. 

Of  the  actual  politics  we  know  little  or  nothing 
from  the  time  of  this  so-called  revolution,  until  by 
some  means  or  other,  unknown  to  the  Emperor, 
Maesa  got  Alexander  designated  Consul  for  the 
year  of  grace  222.  Here  Antonine  struck.  He  re- 
fused point  blank  to  go  to  the  Senate  to  be  invested 
with  the  dignity  unless  some  one  else  weredesignated 
instead  of  his  cousin.  He  saw  the  game  as  clearly 
as  you  and  I  can  see  it,  and  resolved  to  create  a 
deadlock  in  the  constitution.  There  should  be  an 
Emperor,  but  no  Consuls,  unless,  of  course,  the 
women  and  Senate  were  prepared  to  give  way. 
He  was  not  going  to  give  official  position  and 
authority  to  enemies  whose  object  he  knew  only  too 
well.  Up  to  this  juncture  he  had  succeeded  in 
nullifying  their  machinations  ;  did  they  think  he  was 
going  to  give  away  his  whole  position  now.-*  Not 
he,  and  so  on,  and  so  on.  Here  was  a  real 
difficulty — Rome  without  Consuls  was  unthinkable. 
Antonine  without  supremacy  was  almost  as  im- 
possible a  suggestion  ;  still  the  women  resolved  to 


hold  on,  and  try  whether  patience  and  diplomacy- 
would  not  appeal  to  his  sentimental  nature,  and 
thus  overcome  the  last  bit  of  opposition.  After 
all,  he  was  young,  and  affection  with  children  is 
so  much  more  powerful  than  reason. 

This  time  Maesa  herself  does  not  seem  to  have 
tried  to  influence  the  boy.  If  we  can  believe 
Lampridius'  statements,  that  crafty  old  sinner  had 
already  managed  to  worm  herself  back  into  the  friend- 
ship of  the  boy  and  his  mother,  by  putting  the  odium 
of  recent  troubles  entirely  on  to  the  shoulders  of  her 
daughter  Mamaea.  In  consequence,  it  was  with  a 
bold  carriage  that  she  appeared  in  public  with  the 
Emperor,  and  in  private  used  her  influence  with 
Julia  Soaemias,  begging  her  to  make  it  clear  to  the 
dear  boy  that  his  refusal  to  take  the  consulship 
would  be  his  own  undoing.  Rome  would  never 
endure  such  a  breach  of  the  usual  order.  The 
obvious  thing  would  have  been  for  Antonine  to  go 
away,  but  he  seems  to  have  thought,  right  up  to 
midday  on  ist  January,  that  the  Senate  and  his 
relations  would  give  way  first.  Then,  suddenly 
yielding  to  his  mother's  entreaties,  he  consented  to 
the  plan,  and,  going  to  the  Senate,  he  associated 
Alexander  with  himself  in  the  consular  dignity, 
thereby  signing  his  own  death  warrant. 

January  i,  222,  was  the  beginning  of  the  end. 
It  is  very  pitiful  to  see  the  multitudinous  wiles  by 
means  of  which,  all  through  his  reign,  craft  circum- 
vented what  the  Emperor  obviously  knew  was 
his  correct  and  proper  course.  Sometimes,  as 
we  see,  it  was  his  zeal  for  religion  to  which  they 



appealed,  sometimes  his  love  for  his  mother.  In 
each  case  the  result  was  the  same,  the  Emperor  did 
what  his  political  instinct  told  him  was  unwise,  in 
response  to  what  he  considered  a  higher  motive. 
The  adoption  had  not  carried  with  it  the  authority 
which  the  women  desired;  the  office  of  Consul  was, 
therefore,  vitally  necessary  for  Alexander's  promo- 
tion. Antonine  was  bound  to  refuse  his  consent  to 
the  plan ;  he  was  permanent  Consul  if  he  liked,  and 
would  associate  no  one  with  himself  of  whom  he 
disapproved.  What  did  it  matter  to  him  if  people 
talked  of  the  discord  ;  had  they  not  done  so  ever 
since  Maesa  and  Mamaea  started  out  on  their  elec- 
tioneering campaign  }  The  truth  would  certainly  be 
better  for  him  than  his  relations'  lies;  for  himself,  he 
was  not  afraid  of  danger,  though  Soaemias,  the  well- 
meaning  and  artless,  was,  and  for  her  sake  Antonine 
gave  himself  up,  an  unwilling  victim,  into  the  hands 
of  his  enemies.  It  was  shortly  after  midday  when  he 
went  to  the  Curia  accompanied  by  the  self-satisfied 
little  enormity,  and  there,  in  the  presence  of  his 
grandmother,  he  consented  to  give  the  women  all 
that  official  power  and  authority  which  they  had 
hitherto  struggled  vainly  to  obtain. 

Henceforward,  both  Dion  and  Lampridius  tell  us 
that  the  Emperor  sought  his  cousin's  life  to  take 
it  from  him.  Not  that  the  continual  reiteration 
of  the  accusation,  when  contrasted  with  the  utter 
futility  of  Antonine's  masterful  inaction,  is  in  any 
way  convincing  ;  this  we  have  already  pointed  out, 
and  can  add  nothing  to  the  discussion  here. 

Lampridius  recounts  one  quite  amusing  action, 


which,  if  it  were  true,  would  give  a  certain  prob- 
ability to  his  stories.  Antonine,  having  resolved  to 
kill  Alexander,  because  the  tension  of  this  continual 
running  fight  had  become  too  great  for  his  nerves, 
determined  to  dissolve  the  Senate  first ;  fearing  that, 
should  they  be  sitting  when  Alexander  died,  they 
might  elect  some  one  else  instead  of  the  murderer. 
The  chief  reason  for  doubting  this  story  is  that  no 
Antonine  had  ever  yet  had  the  smallest  occasion  to 
fear  anything  untoward  from  the  action  of  that 
august  assembly,  and  it  is  most  improbable  that 
this  Antonine  was  going  to  begin  now.  Emperors 
had  always  taken  the  Senate's  concurrence  in  their 
actions  for  granted,  and  had  invariably  met  with 
entire  subservience. 

But  to  proceed  with  the  beautifully  circum- 
stantial details,  which,  as  usual,  Lampridius  makes 
as  glaringly  mendacious  as  they  are  circumstantial. 
The  Senators,  he  says,  were  told  to  leave  the  city 
at  once ;  those  who  had  neither  carriages  nor  ser- 
vants were  told  to  run  ;  some  hired  porters ;  others 
were  lucky  and  got  carriages.  One  only,  a  Con- 
sular, by  name  Sabinus,  the  personage  to  whom 
Ulpian  had  dedicated  his  works,  and  who,  being 
Severa's  father,  one  would  have  thought  might 
reasonably  have  remained,  did  not  go  sufficiently 
rapidly  for  the  Emperor's  liking  ;  in  fact,  he  stayed 
in  the  city  in  defiance  of  the  order,  and  must  have 
walked  abroad  very  openly,  for  the  Emperor  saw 
him,  and  whispered  to  a  centurion,  "  Kill  that 
man  !  "  Now,  the  centurion  was  deaf,  and  thought 
the  order  was  "  Chase  that   man."  which   order  he 


promptly  executed.  Thus  the  infirmity  of  a  "  mere 
common  centurion  "  saved  Sabinus'  life,  and  gave 
the  world  the  works  of  Ulpian  with  the  dedication 
above  mentioned.  Now,  if,  as  seems  the  case, 
Ulpian's  dedication  of  his  works  to  this  Consular 
is  dependent  on  Sabinus  being  the  man  saved  from 
Antonine's  rapacity  and  cruelty,  the  whole  story  is 
a  lie,  along  with  the  palpable  untruth  about  the 
dedication.  Ulpian  never  mentioned  this  gentle- 
man, either  by  name,  implication,  or  in  any  other 
fashion,  which  is  just  a  bit  awkward  for  Aelius 
Lampridius,  who  might  at  least  have  taken  the 
trouble  to  consult  the  title-page  of  Ulpian's  works 
or  have  asked  somebody  else  to  do  the  job  for 
him,  if  he  was  too  tired  with  his  former  efforts  at 
inventing  fiction.  The  name  is  certainly  mentioned 
in  the  commentaries  which  Ulpian  wrote  on  the 
famous  jurist  of  Tiberius'  period,  but  that  is  natur- 
ally another  story  altogether. 

There  is  yet  another  effort  made  to  drag 
Ulpian  into  this  same  chapter,  namely,  when 
Lampridius  says  that  part  of  Antonine's  scheme 
for  the  murder  of  Alexander  was  to  deprive  him 
of  his  tutors,  one  of  whom  he  banished  (Ulpian), 
while  Silvinus,  the  distinguished  orator,  whom  the 
Emperor  himself  had  recommended,  was  put  to 
death.  Both  of  these  men  suffered  because  they 
were  great  and  good  men.  Now,  Ulpian  we  know, 
Julius  Paulus  we  know  also  (though  quite  why  he 
was  left  by  Alexander's  side  when  good  men  were 
banished  we  are  not  told ;  unless  it  be  that,  for  the 
moment,  he  was  hiding  his  light  under  a  bushel); 


but  who  on  earth  was  Silvinus  ?  His  name  is  not 
given  amongst  that  exhaustive  Hst  of  nonentities 
marshalled  out  by  Lampridius  [Alex.  Sev.  vita, 
xxxii.)  as  the  men  who  had  failed  to  teach 
Alexander  Latin,  after  an  effort  which  lasted 
from  his  earliest  babyhood  up  to  the  time  of 
his  death  ;  neither  is  he  mentioned  in  any  other 
place,  either  by  this  author  or  in  any  other  record 
of  Antonine's  cruelties  ;  on  which  account  we  feel 
inclined  to  relegate  him,  with  other  doubtful  bless- 
ings, to  the  special  limbo  reserved  for  all  similarly 
inspired  terminological  inexactitudes,  and  proceed 
to  recount  the  rapidity  with  which  Mamaea  found 
means  to  make  up  for  lost  time  in  acquiring  her 

Needless  to  say,  even  here  Lampridius'  fabrica- 
tions are  as  difficult  to  reconcile  with  Dion  and 
Herodian's  stories  as  those  two  authors  are  impos- 
sible to  square  with  one  another.  Of  course  the 
two  last  were  both  eye-witnesses  of  the  scenes  they 
recount,  and  tell  us  so,  with  some  pride,  a  circum- 
stance which  in  no  way  hinders  them  from  seeing 
things  double,  and  calling  them  different  aspects  of 
the  same  truth,  after  the  manner  of  theologians 
when  they  are  in  a  conciliatory  frame  of  mind. 

For  the  murder  of  Antonine  Lampridius  assigns 
no  adequate  reason,  giving  instead  two  suppositions 
of  his  own — first,  that  the  Praetorians  feared  Anto- 
nine's vengeance  on  account  of  the  attack  which 
they  had  made  on  him  some  months  previously,  and 
for  which  he  had  then  and  there  forgiven  them  ; 
but,  says   Lampridius,  despite  this  forgiveness,  the 

i66  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

soldiers  killed  him  in  cold  blood.  Second,  that  on 
account  of  the  hatred  he  had  testified  towards  them 
(presumably  in  not  seeing  to  their  donatives),  they 
resolved  to  rid  the  Republic  of  this  pest,  and  began 
by  putting  to  death,  first,  the  friends  of  the  Emperor 
by  various  foul  and  indecent  means,  and  then,  having 
got  these  out  of  the  way,  they  openly  attacked 
Antonine  in  the  latrinae,  and  killed  him. 

Dion's  account  is  more  circumstantial,  and  brings 
Alexander  and  Mamaea  into  the  horrid  scene. 
His  story  is  that  the  two  Consuls,  during  a  meeting 
of  the  Praetorians,  summoned  on  account  of  one  of 
the  multitudinous  plots  against  Alexander,  went  into 
the  camp,  that  their  two  mothers  followed,  fighting 
one  another  more  openly  than  usual,  each  imploring 
the  soldiers  to  kill  her  sister's  son.  We  are  then 
told  that  Antonine,  quite  contrary  to  his  custom, 
got  frightened,  rushed  from  the  scene  and  disap- 
peared into  a  chest.  This  was  apparently  a  foolish 
and  obvious  hiding-place,  whence  he  was  soon 
dragged  in  order  to  have  his  head  cut  off,  while  his 
mother  held  him  in  her  arms.  Naturally,  as  the 
operation  of  killing  one  without  the  other  in  such 
a  position  was  difficult,  Soaemias  perished  along 
with  her  son. 

Herodian,  always  the  most  circumstantial  and 
picturesque  liar,  substitutes  for  the  story  of  the 
'  sudden  dissolution  of  the  Senate,  a  report  which  he 
says  Antonine  caused  to  be  circulated.  It  was  to 
the  effect  that  Alexander  was  ill,  so  ill  that  he  was 
likely  to  die  at  any  moment.  By  this  means 
Antonine  hoped  to  keep   the  boy  shut  up  in   the 


palace  until  the  soldiers  and  citizens  had  forgotten 
him,  when  he  would  be  able  to  put  him  out  of  the 
way  quietly.  Of  course  this  would  have  been  an 
admirable  plan  if  the  boy  had  had  no  fond  mother 
or  grandmother  to  look  after  his  interests,  but  was 
rather  futile  when  one  considers  that  these  ladies, 
after  striving  to  rule  for  four  years,  had  at  last  got 
the  power  into  their  own  hands  by  appointing 
Alexander  Consul.  It  was  extremely  improbable, 
therefore,  that  both  Maesa  and  Mamaea  were 
going  to  keep  their  mouths  closed  and  say  nothing 
when,  in  the  full  flush  of  their  triumph,  they  saw 
their  puppet,  and  with  him  their  own  power,  being 
put  kors  de  co7nbat  in  a  slow  and  lingering  manner. 
As  usual,  Herodian  never  thought  of  these  things, 
and  ascribed  the  whole  action  to  the  Praetorians. 
These  turbulent  guardsmen,  when  they  began  to 
miss  the  young  Consul,  decided  to  mutiny  again,  the 
present  form  being  a  refusal  to  turn  out  the  palace 
guard  until  Alexander  should  reappear  in  the  temples. 
On  the  face  of  things,  this  was  a  most  irrational 
proceeding.  If  the  Praetorians  wanted  to  save 
Alexander  and  suspected  that  foul  play  was  about 
to  be  perpetrated  in  the  palace,  surely  they  would 
have  gone  to  their  posts  as  usual,  and  then  used 
their  official  position  to  rescue  the  boy,  instead  of 
shutting  themselves  up  in  their  camp,  and  leaving 
him  to  his  fate  quite  unprotected.  This  apparently 
did  not  occur,  either  to  the  soldiers  or  Herodian, 
who  announces  that  when  the  guards  refused  to 
come  to  the  palace,  Antonine  (instead  of  finishing 
the  work  and  showing  the  dead  body  in  the  temples) 

i68  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

was  simply  penetrated  with  the  usual  fear — always 
imputed  and  never   lived  up  to,  unfortunately  for 
Herodian.      In  order  to  demonstrate  to  the  soldiers 
just  how  frightened  he  was,  the  Emperor  did  the  one 
thing  that  no  terrified  person  could  possibly  have 
done,  he  set  out  in  a  litter  for  the  camp — utterly  un- 
protected, of  course,  because  he  had  no  guards.    The 
litter  is  fully  described,  namely,  the  state  litter,  spark- 
ling with  gold  and  precious  stones.     With  Antonine 
went  Alexander,  presumably,  as  the  story  develops, 
in  order  to  foster  the  hatred  which  the  soldiers  felt 
towards  the  Emperor,  and  raise  to  a  frenzy  the  love 
they  bore  Alexander.      It  was  as  usual  a  journey 
in  which  the  Emperor  courted  death  ;  in  fact,  the 
number  of  times  that  Antonine  imperilled  his  pre- 
cious   life    is    simply    astounding    to   any  one  who 
studies  these  delightful  romances.     But  to  proceed. 
When  the  litter  arrived,  the  gates  of  the  camp  were 
opened,  and    the   Consuls   were   conducted    to   the 
chapel,  which  occupied  a  central  position  in  the  en- 
closure.    This  leads  one  to  suppose,  considering  also 
the  magnificence  of  the  carriage,  that  the  visit  was 
one  of  an  official  nature,  in  which  the  two  Consuls 
were  bound  to  go  together.     The  chapel  also  was 
an  ominous  place,  as  it  was  here  that  Caracalla  had 
played  the  farce  of  regretting  his  part  in,  if  not  of 
exculpating  himself  from,  the  murder  of  his  brother 
.  Geta.     Of  course,  things  happened  just  as  was  ex- 
pected; the  visit  did   foster  loyalty  to  Alexander, 
who    was    received    as    a   deliverer   with    acclama- 
tion, and  raised  to  fever  pitch  all  the  evil  passions 
against  Antonine,  who  was  received  with   perfect 


coldness.  Despite  this  inauspicious  reception,  the 
Emperor  elected  to  stay  the  night  in  the  camp 
chapel,  the  better  to  meditate  on  his  wrongs,  which 
was  obviously  an  unlikely  proceeding  on  the  part  of 
the  young  Sybarite. 

Next  morning  he  held  a  court-martial  to  try  the 
soldiers  who  had  made  themselves  conspicuous  by 
the  warmth  of  their  reception  of  Alexander.  Hero- 
dian  and  the  Emperor  seem  to  have  quite  forgotten 
that  the  guards  were  mutinying,  as  we  hear  no  more 
of  that  story,  though  obviously  they  ought  to  have 
been  tried  for  that  offence  first.  At  any  rate, 
Antonine,  still  penetrated  with  terror,  condemned 
these  men  to  death  as  seditious  persons.  The 
soldiers,  transported  with  rage  at  his  treatment  of 
their  companions,  and  filled  with  hatred  of  the 
Emperor,  conceived  the  notion  of  succouring  their 
imprisoned  brethren  by  upsetting  the  dishonoured 
Emperor.  Time  and  pretext  were  admirable  ;  they 
killed  Antonine  and  with  him  Soaemias,  who  was 
present,  both  as  his  mother  and  as  Empress ;  they 
then  included  in  the  massacre  all  those  of  the 
cortege  who  were  in  the  camp,  and  known  to  be 
Antonine's  ministers  or  accomplices  in  his  crimes. 
They  then  gave  the  bodies  to  the  mob,  to  be 
dragged  about  the  streets  of  Rome,  finally  throwing 
that  of  the  Emperor  into  the  Tiber  from  the  Aemi- 
lian  Bridge.  All  this  was  presumably  done  under 
the  eyes  of,  and  with  the  consent  of  Eutychianus, 
the  Emperor's  friend  and  chief  minister,  who  was, 
it  will  be  remembered,  in  command  of  the  Prae- 
torians at  the  time. 


A  careful  comparison  of  these  three  stories  reveals 
the  fact  that  none  of  the  eye-witnesses  saw  the  same 
things,  and  none  ascribe  the  deed  to  the  same  motive. 
All  agree,  however,  in  shifting  the  responsibility  from 
the  shoulders  of  the  former  conspirators  on  to  those 
of  the  Praetorians,  No  one  except  Dion  Cassius 
mentions  either  Maesa  or  Mamaea,  and  he  merely 
says  that  Mamaea  and  Soaemias  both  urged  murder 
each  of  her  sister's  son.  No  mention  is  made  of 
Antonine's  supposed  plot  against  his  cousin  ;  in  fact, 
all  reference  to  plots  against  Alexander,  Maesa,  and 
Mamaea  is  here  carefully  eliminated,  surely  with  an 
object ;  since  it  has  been  the  great  reason  given 
heretofore  for  the  Emperor's  unpopularity,  and 
precarious  position.  But  let  us  attempt  to  recon- 
struct the  events  of  this  memorable  day.  From 
Herodian  we  learn  that  the  state  litter  was  used  ; 
that  in  it  travelled  the  two  Consuls,  accompanied 
by  at  least  the  Empress  mother;  Fulvius  Dioge- 
nianus,  the  Praefect  of  Rome  ;  Aurelius  Eubulus, 
who,  as  chancellor  of  the  exchequer,  had  made  him- 
self extremely  unpopular  by  robbing  hen  -  roosts 
(Dion),  and  was  in  consequence  torn  to  pieces  by 
the  mob;  Hierocles,  the  Emperor's  friend  and 
husband  (who  had  recently  been  designated  Caesar, 
presumably  as  a  sort  of  set-off  to  Alexander),  and 
two  out  of  the  three  Praetorian  praefects. 

Dion  and  Lampridius  both  suggest  that  the 
Emperor  tried  to  escape.  Herodian,  with  the 
fullest  account,  makes  no  mention  of  this  fact ;. 
neither  Lampridius  nor  Dion  agree,  however, 
as    to  the   mode  of  Antonine's    proposed   escape. 


The  incident  of  the  latrinae,  mentioned  by  Lam- 
pridius,  suggests  a  murder  similar  in  circumstance  to 
that  of  Caracalla.  What  would  have  been  easier 
than  for  one  of  Mamaea's  party  to  seize  the  boy, 
alone  and  unprotected  in  the  latrinae  ?  The 
Emperor  once  gone,  the  obvious  thing  would  be 
for  the  conspirators  to  remove  as  quickly  as  possible 
all  those  persons  who  might  make  things  difficult 
for  his  successor.  Of  these,  Soaemias  would 
certainly  be  the  most  troublesome.  Hot  and 
passionate,  devoted  to  her  son  and  to  his  memory, 
if  she  had  lived,  Rome  would  have  resounded  with 
the  noise  of  the  crime.  It  was  obviously  neces- 
sary to  close  her  mouth  with  expedition.  Why 
Eutychianus  did  not  suffer  the  same  fate  is  quite 
incomprehensible.  The  only  theory  that  has  been 
suggested  is  that  neither  Maesa  nor  Mamaea  felt 
themselves  capable  of  undertaking  the  whole  admin- 
istration alone  ;  they  felt  that  they  must  have  at 
least  one  man  who  knew  the  ropes  at  their  back. 

To  account  for  the  treatment  of  Antonine's  body 
at  the  hands  of  the  mob  is  certainly  difficult.  We 
know  that  he  had  done  nothing  which  could  have 
rendered  him  obnoxious  to  the  populace.  To  ascribe 
it  to  intolerance  of  his  psychopathic  condition 
shows,  not  only  ignorance  of  Roman  susceptibilities, 
but  also  a  foolish  ante-dating  of  popular  prejudice. 
We  certainly  have  no  record  of  this  Emperor's 
sepulchre  ;  and  to  dismiss  as  mere  fable  the  one 
point  on  which  the  authors  all  agree  is  equally 
impossible.  The  probable  solution  lies  in  the 
fact  that   Mamaea's  money,  which  had  caused  the 

172  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS         chap,  vi 

murder,  invented  this  scheme  for  disgracing  her 
nephew's  m.emory,  and  thus  averted  trouble  from 
herself.  It  would  raise  a  popular  tumult,  or  at  any 
rate  a  disgust  for  the  idol  of  the  masses,  if  they 
could  have  Antonine's  body  dragged  through  the 
city  publicly,  as  the  perpetrator  of  unmentionable 
crimes,  concerning  which  the  populace  knew  nothing. 
Suffice  it  to  say  that  it  did  the  work.  Antonine 
had  the  stigma  of  all  crimes  imputed  to  his  memory  ; 
and  Alexander  the  good  arose  superior  to  all  human 
frailties.  Then  and  not  till  then,  Rome  began  to  be 
shocked.  Men  whose  fortunes  Antonine  had  made 
by  his  liberality,  the  Senate,  whom  he  had  snubbed 
so  unmercifully,  the  army  to  whose  donatives  he  had 
not  attended  properly,  all  these  found  it  advisable 
to  adopt  the  views  of  the  new  administration  ;  their 
education  in  ingratitude  was  complete.  Instead  of 
the  generous,  fearless,  affectionate  boy  whom  the 
populace  had  known,  there  emerged  the  sceptred 
butcher  ill  with  satyriasis ;  the  taciturn  tyrant,  hideous 
and  debauched,  the  unclean  priest,  devising  in  the 
crypts  of  a  palace  infamies  so  monstrous  that  to 
describe  them  new  words  had  to  be  coined.  It  was 
Mamaea's  work,  and  for  1800  years  no  one  has 
had  the  audacity  to  look  below  the  surface  and 
unmask  the  deception. 




Antonmc  s  Government  from  221  to  222  a.d. 

The  events  of  the  years  221  and  until  March  222  are 
mainly  a  record  of  internecine  fights  and  struggles  ; 
the  Emperor  was  trying  to  retain  his  position  in 
the  state,  the  women  leaving  no  stone  unturned 
to  possess  themselves  of  power  in  Alexander's 
name.  We  have  traced  the  events  which  led  to 
the  adoption  of  Alexander,  and  noticed  the  small 
amount  of  power  which  his  position  as  heir  to  the 
Empire  actually  put  into  the  hands  of  Maesa  and 
Mamaea.  We  have  seen  further  how  the  repudia- 
tion of  the  adoption  by  Antonine  lessened  even  this 
modicum  of  power,  and  how  the  successful  attempt  to 
make  Alexander  Consul  gained  for  their  puppet 
the  official  position  from  which  the  terms  of  his 
adoption  had  excluded  him.  Once  that  position 
was  secured,  we  have  watched  the  successful  plot 
against  the  Emperor's  life,  which  placed  Maesa  and 
Mamaea  in  actual  command  of  the  state  under 
the  merely  nominal  headship  of  Alexander.  It  only 
remains  for  us  to  follow  the  governmental  acts  of 



these  last  months  of  Antonine's  life,  as  far  as  the 
authorities  will  allow. 

The  first  recorded  action  after  the  adoption  of 
Alexander  was  one  of  religion.  The  ostensible 
object  of  the  ceremony  on  loth  July,  or  rather 
earlier,  had  been  to  free  the  chief  priest  of  Elagabal 
from  his  secular  duties,  in  order  that  he  might 
further  the  worship  of  the  Great  God.  To  this 
end,  Antonine  instituted  a  magnificent  religious 
procession  through  the  city,  taking  his  God  from 
the  temple  on  the  Palatine  to  that  in  the  suburbs. 
Herodian,  with  his  usual  inaccuracy,  announces  that 
this  ceremony  took  place  each  year  at  midsummer. 
Now,  the  temple  on  the  Palatine  was  not  finished 
by  midsummer  of  the  year  220,  judging  from  the 
coins  which  celebrate  the  expansion  of  the  cult, 
and  that  near  the  Porta  Praenestina  was  even 
later  in  its  completion.  The  inference  is,  therefore, 
that  the  procession  could  not  possibly  have  taken 
place  in  the  year  220  at  midsummer.  Further 
evidence  is,  however,  forthcoming ;  Cohen  mentions 
certain  Roman  coins  struck  in  honour  of  the  proces- 
sion ;  they  show  the  God  on  a  car,  and  date  from 
the  latter  part  of  the  year  221,  by  which  time  the 
suburban  temple  was  finished  and  the  procession 
certainly  took  place. 

Before  midsummer  in  the  year  222,  according  to 
Dion,  Antonine  was  dead.  He  did  not  therefore 
conduct  the  Elagabal  procession,  and  as  the  authors 
inform  us  that  Alexander  sent  the  God  back  to 
Emesa  with  considerable  expedition,  after  recon- 
secrating the  temple  to  Jupiter,  it  is  very  unlikely 




lovi  Ullioii.       riic  i;iiogal)aliuiH  as  rcconsecraad  lo  Jupiter,  A.D.  224. 

(From  a  woodcut. ) 

Coin  struck  to  commemorate  tlic  Procession  of  Klagabal,  A.D.  221 
(British  Museum). 

Coin  of  A.I).  221  rc|>M>t  niiiii;  the  ICliogabalium. 
( From  a  photogravure. ) 

Face  page  174. 


that  Alexander  continued  the  pubHc  parade  of  an 
unpopular  worship,  even  though  the  God  was  still 
in  Rome  at  the  time  mentioned. 

Despite  Herodian's  statement  that  Alexander,  as 
well  as  Antonine,  was  a  priest  of  the  Sun,  it  is  fairly 
certain  that  the  former  was  never  actually  associ- 
ated with  his  cousin  in  that  priesthood,  and  was 
not  in  the  least  likely  to  begin  the  worship  after 
Antonine's  death.  The  obvious  inference  is  that, 
as  usual,  Herodian  was  speaking  without  his  book  ; 
each  year  meant  that  there  was  one  procession,  and 
one  only,  namely  at  midsummer  in  the  year  221. 

The  correct  interpretation  of  this  function  be- 
longs to  specialists  in  Semitic  mythology.  There 
are  points  about  it,  however,  which  incline  one  to 
the  idea  that  its  institution  in  Rome  was  due  to  the 
marriage  of  Elagabal  and  Juno  Coelestis.  Its  real 
significance  lies  in  the  fact  that  it  took  place  at 
midsummer.  Ramsay  tells  us  of  many  such  pro- 
cessions in  the  East,  notably  those  held  during 
the  month  Tammuz,  which  (owing  to  the  variations 
of  the  local  Syrian  calendars)  fell  in  various  places 
at  different  times  between  June  and  September. 
Now,  these  processions  celebrated  the  nuptials 
of  the  divine  pair  Ishtar-Tammuz  or  Aphrodite- 
Adonis.  The  worship  of  this  pair  centred  at  Bylus, 
not  100  miles  from  Emesa,  and  from  this  shrine,  in 
all  probability,  Antonine  got  his  idea  of  the  great 
procession,  made  memorable  by  the  coins  struck 
during  the  year  221,  and  also  by  the  inscription  to 
Hercules,  erected  either  in  the  latter  part  of  the  year 
221  or  early  in  222  (Domaszewski)  by  the  Centurion 


Masculinus  Valens,  the  standard-bearer  Aurelius 
Fabianus,  and  the  adjutant  Valerius  Ferminus,  all 
of  the  Tenth  Antonine  Cohort  of  the  Praetorian 
Guard.  This  inscription  records  their  having  taken 
part  in  the  sacred  procession,  which  seems  to  have 
been  of  a  military  as  well  as  of  a  religious  character. 
The  magnificence  was  extraordinary.  The  chariot 
on  which  the  God  was  transported  was  richly 
covered  with  gold  and  precious  stones ;  great 
umbrellas  were  at  each  corner.  It  was  drawn  by 
six  white  horses  (the  coins  give  them  all  abreast), 
and  the  reins  were  so  arranged  as  to  make  it  appear 
that  the  God  himself  was  driving,  while  the  horses 
were  actually  guided  by  the  Emperor,  running  back- 
wards, and  supported  on  either  side  by  guards  lest 
anything  untoward  should  happen.  Statues  of  the 
Gods,  costly  offerings,  and  the  insignia  of  imperial 
power  were  carried,  while  the  Equestrian  order 
and  the  Praetorian  Guards  followed. 

The  streets  were  strewn  thick  with  yellow  sand, 
powdered  with  gold  dust,  and  the  whole  route  was 
lined  by  the  populace,  carrying  torches  and  strew- 
ing flowers  in  the  path  of  God.  Precisely  the 
same  thing  may  be  seen  to-day  following  the  same 
route  and  at  the  same  time  of  the  year.  The 
procession  of  the  Corpus  Domini  is  still  a  popular 
function  even  in  modern  Rome,  though  its  ter- 
mination is  no  longer  the  occasion  for  temporal 
blessings  such  as  Antonine's  liberality  provided. 
Herodian  mentions  this  liberality,  and  condemns  it 
as  a  sort  of  diabolical  plot  for  the  extermination 
of  the  citizens.     He  says  that  when  the  festival  was 

vii  SUPPLEMENTARY  MATTER        177 

over,  Antonine  used  to  mount  on  towers  especially 
constructed  for  the  purpose,  and  distribute  to  the 
crowd  vases  of  gold  and  silver,  clothes  and  stuffs  of 
all  sorts,  fat  oxen  and  other  animals,  clean  and 
unclean,  except  pigs,  which  were  forbidden  to 
him  by  his  Phoenician  (not  Jewish)  custom. 
Presumably  the  distribution  was  by  tickets, 
exchangeable  for  these  gifts,  of  which  he  says  each 
was  at  liberty  to  take  what  he  could  seize.  In  the 
scramble,  many  citizens  perished  either  by  crushing 
one  another,  or  by  throwing  themselves,  in  their 
eagerness,  on  the  lances  of  the  soldiers.  The  con- 
sequence was  that  the  festival  became  a  misfortune 
to  many  families.  But  surely  to  make  Antonine 
responsible  for  the  greediness  of  the  crowd  is  as 
absurd  as  to  record  the  fiction  that  he  smothered 
people  wuth  flowers,  or  took  luncheon  in  the  circus 
when  he  was  interested  in  the  games,  and  then 
evince  such  harmless  amusements  as  proofs  of 

As  we  recorded  in  the  last  chapter,  it  was 
certainly  not  long  before  Antonine  discovered  that 
he  had  made  a  vital  mistake  in  adopting  his  cousin. 
We  are  led  to  infer  that  the  boys  had  not  seen 
much  of  one  another  for  some  time  previously,  as 
Mamaea  had  kept  them  apart,  fearing  her  son's 
contamination.  Now  that  Alexander  was  actually 
in  the  palace  and  in  daily  contact  with  the  Emperor, 
incompatibility  of  temper  was  the  natural  result, 
though  in  several  places  we  are  informed  that 
Antonine  loved  his  cousin  at  least  up  to  ist  January, 
which  interesting  fact  may  be  doubted  on  psycho- 


178  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

logical  as  well  as  on  the  historical  grounds  already 
recorded.  His  second  mistake  had  been  in  marrying 
his  grandmother's  elderly  friend  Annia  Faustina. 

By  the    autumn    of  221    the   Emperor   had   re- 
solved   (as    we    have    already   pointed    out)  to   rid 
himself    of    both     encumbrances    at    once.       For 
Antonine,   divorces,  like  marriages,  were   made  in 
heaven,    an    opinion    which    he    had    no    desire    to 
hide    from    men.       He    therefore    divorced    Annia 
Faustina  without   intending    to   live   a    single   life, 
even    for   a   time,   because    he  had   grown   weary, 
was     tired    of    this    struggle    with    his    relations. 
Moreover,  he   wanted    friends  ;    the  coup  d'dtat  by 
which  he  had  freed  himself  from  the  irksomeness  of 
Alexander's  sonship,  or  had  at  least  tried  to  do  so, 
and  by  which  he  had  at  the  same  time  got  rid  of  his 
third   wife,   had   naturally  caused   a  break  with  his 
family ;    after   which  the    Emperor    seems    to    have 
considered  himself  at  perfect  liberty  to  make  any 
appointments  he  chose,  and  to  mismanage  the  state 
much  as  a  Claudius  or  a  Macrinus  might  have  done. 
It  was  a  period,   according  to    Lampridius,   when 
Antonine    was    specially    drawn    to    members    of 
the   theatrical  profession.      Now   such  persons  are 
admirable  in  their  proper  place,  but  are  not   much 
sought  after  in  governmental  positions.       Unfortu- 
nately, the  Emperor  did  not  know  this  fact,   and, 
.  considering    himself    emancipated,     did    as    Nero, 
Titus,  Domitian,  or  Caracalla  would  have  done;  he 
appointed  his  friends  everywhere.    The  biographers, 
of  course,  assume  that  the  men  appointed  were   of 
loose  character,  as  well  as  of  base  origin,  without 



supplying  a  tiule  of  evidence  either  as  to  who  the 
men  were  or  what  they  did  when  in  responsible 
positions.  The  supposition  is  that  they  were 
appointed  on  account  of  abnormalities  ;  the  result, 
as  chronicled,  is  that  the  stale  did  not  suffer  from 
their  mismanagement. 

We   can   quite   see  the  point  of  view  of  a  boy 

feverishly  anxious  to  regain  the  power  and  authority 

which  he  had  lost,  and  imagining  that  the  one  way  to 

do  this  was  to  put  his  own  friends  into  office,  whether 

they  were   barbers,   runners,   cooks,   or   locksmiths. 

Lampridius  tells  us  that  men   from   each  of  these 

trades  were  appointed  as  procurators  of  the   20th, 

though  how  many  such  appointments  Antonine  made 

it  is  impossible  to  discover.      In  the  autumn  of  this 

year  (221)  the  soldiers  asked  for  the  dismissal  of  four 

such  favourites,  of  whom  the  Chariot- Driver  Gordius, 

Praefect  of  the   Night   Watch,    was   one;   Claudius 

Censor,  Praefect  of  the  Sustenances,  another.     In  the 

same  passage  Lampridius  reiterates  the  old  lie  about 

Eutychianus  Comazon,  who  had  been  reappointed 

Praefect  of  the  Praetorian  Guard  about  January  222. 

He  again  calls  Eutychianus  an  actor,  who  changed 

his  offices  as  quickly  as  he  would  have  changed  his 

parts  on  the  stage,  and  records  that  it  was  the  height 

of  folly   to    put    him    in    command   of  the    guards. 

In  all  probability   it  was  annoying  to   Mamaea,  as 

she  might  not  be  able  to  bribe  the  guards  as  freely 

as    heretofore.      Now,    we    have   already   seen    that 

Eutychianus    Comazon    was   a   soldier   as   far   back 

as  the  year  182  ;  that  he  had  held  this  same  office 

( Praefect  of  the  Praetorium)  in  218;  that  he  had  been 

i8o  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

Praefect  of  the  City  in  219,  Consul  in  220;  again 
Praefect  of  the  City  in  221,  and  that,  when  in  the 
murders  and  proscriptions  which  followed  that  of 
Antonine,  the  then  Praefect  of  Rome  Fulvius  Dio- 
genianus  had  met  his  end,  Comazon  was  reappointed 
to  the  city  praefecture  for  the  third  time,  and  now 
by  Maesa  and  Mamaea.  It  is,  therefore,  pure 
stupidity  to  condemn  Antonine  for  appointing  this 
actor  (!)  to  a  post  in  222  which  he  had  already  held 
with  honour,  and  which  he  was  to  hold  again  with 
renown.  If  none  of  Antonine's  appointments  were 
worse  than  this  of  Eutychianus  Comazon,  it  is  small 
vv'onder  that  the  state  suffered  in  no  wise  from 
the  mismanagement.  A  further  charge  brought 
against  the  administration  is,  that  the  Emperor 
appointed  freedmen  to  the  posts  of  Governors  of 
Provinces,  Ambassadors,  Proconsuls,  and  military 
leaders,  thus  debasing  all  these  offices  by  conferring 
them  upon  the  ignoble  and  dissolute. 

Here  is  another  wilful  bit  of  misrepresentation. 
A  short  perusal  of  Petronius  on  the  position  of 
freedmen  will  disabuse  any  one's  mind  of  the  idea 
that  they  were  either  ignoble  or  essentially  dis- 
solute. Patricians  they  were  not,  though  they  aped 
the  manners  and  extravagances  of  that  class,  much 
as  the  plutocracy  of  to-day  ape  the  aristocracy  of 
yesterday,  both  in  their  wealth  and  their  exclusive- 
■  ness.  Money  in  Old  Rome  carried  much  the  same 
kudos  as  it  carries  in  England  to-day.  The  democracy 
could  and  did  rise  when  they  had  acquired  wealth ; 
they  were  then  just  as  vulgar,  just  as  ostentatious, 
just  as  snobbish  as  their  successors  the  plutocrats 



of  this  latter-day  world  ;  they  had  the  privileges 
that  wealth  confers  and  none  of  the  responsibilities 
which  aristocracy  involves,  and  were,  equally 
with  the  modern  plutocrats,  without  traditions  or 
heredity  to  guide  them.  But  this  was  their  misfor- 
tune, not  their  fault.  On  the  other  hand,  there  was, 
as  a  general  rule,  plenty  of  ability  amongst  the  men 
who  had  risen.  They  were  clear-headed,  far-sighted 
politicians ;  men  who,  being  free  from  traditions, 
were  best  able  to  cut  away  the  overgrowth  of 
centuries,  because  their  respect  for  archaeological 
institutions  had  not  degenerated  them  into  mere 
fossilized  curiosities  of  an  antediluvian  age.  Cer- 
tainly they  were  not  all  ignoble,  if  they  were  plebeian 
in  origin,  and  it  is  mere  supposition  to  say  that 
they  were  all  dissolute  ;  so  indecent  a  suggestion 
could  only  emanate  from  those  who  hoped  to  gain 
in  comparison. 

There  was  one  obvious  reason  why  Maesa  and 
her  party  should  object  to  any  and  every  appoint- 
ment made  by  Antonine.  Men  thus  appointed 
would  not  be  her  nominees,  and  she  could  not 
therefore  demand  the  fees  payable  on  such  occa- 
sions. This  mention  of  fees  brings  one  to  the 
second  part  of  the  charge  against  the  Emperor, 
namely,  that  he  sold  offices  either  himself  or 
through  his  favourites.  It  would  certainly  be 
more  satisfactory  if  we  knew  something  as  to  what 
he  sold,  to  whom  he  sold  it,  or  for  how  much  he 
sold  it.  Lampridius  is  careful  not  to  mention  such 
trivial  and  minor  details,  he  just  brings  the  accusa- 
tion, without  either  proof  or  real  likelihood  to  support 

i82  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

it.  The  main  contention  seems  to  be  that  the  prac- 
tice is  immoral ;  if  so,  immorality  is  as  rife  to-day 
as  in  third-century  Rome.  Sovereigns,  ministers, 
cabinets,  universities,  churches,  in  fact  every  species 
of  authority  confers  its  own  offices,  decorations,  titles, 
and  sinecures,  for  all  of  which  fees  are  still  charge- 
able, even  exacted.  This  practice  of  royalties  may 
account  for  the  charge,  as  it  is  unlikely,  psycho- 
logically speaking,  that  Antonine  would  ever  have 
sought  to  profit  pecuniarily  from  his  friends,  and 
certainly  he  would  not  have  appointed  enemies, 
even  for  money's  sake ;  he  had  learnt  too  much 
about  the  ways  of  such  people  in  the  bosom  of  his 
own  family.  We  have  remarked  in  other  places  on 
Antonine's  penchant  for  giving,  and  can  well  believe 
that  the  boy  bestowed  favours  broadcast ;  that  he 
sought  to  fill  offices  as  they  fell  vacant,  by  the 
appointment  of  friends,  especially  with  men  who 
had  endeared  themselves  to  him,  men  from  whom 
he  expected  loyalty  in  return  for  his  devotion  and 
generosity.  Poor  child,  he  had  yet  to  learn  that 
sycophants  are  ever  to  be  bought  by  the  highest 
bidder.  Lampridius  relates  the  trouble  and  increase 
of  difficulty  which,  by  their  disloyalty,  venality,  and 
unbridled  gossip,  these  men  brought  upon  their 
benefactor  in  return  for  his  trust.  Fortunately  for 
all  parties  concerned,  they  met  their  deaths  (doubt- 
less unwilling  victims)  along  with  the  master  whom 
they  had  betrayed.  They  thought  they  had  secured 
themselves,  but  found  they  would  have  done  better 
to  secure  him,  which  is  not  an  unusual  position  with 


Amongst  the  number  of  appointments  made  for 
his  own  pleasure  during  this  period  we  must  include 
the  return  of  Aquilia  Severa  to  the  position  of  wife 
and  Empress.  Dion  relates  that,  between  the 
divorce  of  Annia  Faustina  and  the  return  of  the 
nun  to  connubial  felicity,  Antonine  took  two 
women  to  wife  ;  but  adds  sapiently  that  even  he 
does  not  know  who  they  were,  or  when  the  mar- 
riages took  place.  Now,  as  the  time  between  the 
divorce  of  Annia  and  the  Emperor's  death  cannot 
greatly  have  exceeded  three  months,  and  as  he  was 
obviously  desirous  of  returning  to  Aquilia  Severa 
from  the  first,  the  story  of  the  two  odd  wives  may 
be  dismissed  as  not  proven,  another  of  those  termino- 
logical inexactitudes  which  seem  to  be  inseparable 
from  the  political  amenities  of  every  age ;  added  to 
which  we  must  remember  that  Antonine  was  still 
so  passionately  devoted  to  Hierocles  that  he  would 
willingly  have  died  rather  than  be  parted  from  him. 

The  return  of  the  nun  was  the  crowning  point  in 
Antonine's  folly.  Undoubtedly  he  was  getting  more 
and  more  worried,  was  feverishly  anxious  to  repair 
the  damage  to  his  shattered  power,  was  ready  to  catch 
at  any  straw  that  would  give  him  encouragement  and 
help.  In  his  extremity  he  turned  to  the  one  woman 
for  whom  he  had  ever  cared, — if  we  except  his 
mother,  who,  poor  woman,  was  of  an  artfulness  so 
bovine  that  her  support  was  a  much  more  useful  asset 
in  his  enemies'  game  than  to  his  own  position.  For 
Antonine,  unfortunately,  Aquilia  Severa  was  also 
worse  than  useless  ;  she  may  have  cared  for  him, 
but  her  return  spelt  his  ruin  and  destruction. 

i84  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

Not  that  Antonine  was  by  any  means  at  the  end 
of  his  resources  as  yet.  If  he  hesitated,  no  one 
knew  it.  Like  Caligula,  he  must  have  spent 
nearly  ;^400, 000,000  of  our  money,  and  was  radiant 
because  he  had  achieved  the  impossible.  But  he 
was  worried,  and,  again  like  Caligula,  in  the  nick  of 
time  he  remembered  the  sure  and  certain  way  to 
glory.  As  an  Antonine  at  the  head  of  a  conquering 
army  he  would  again  advance  against  the  Mar- 
comanni,  the  men  inhabiting  Bavaria  and  Bohemia, 
whom.  Commodus  had  reduced. 

Now,  the  oracles  had  predicted  that  an  Antonine 
should  finish  this  war,  a  circumstance  which  com- 
mended itself  to  the  Emperor  from  more  points  of 
view  than  one.  Like  every  religious  person  in  the 
Empire  Antonine  was  superstitious.  Zonaras  re- 
counts that  the  boy  wore  600  amulets ;  but,  as  he 
was  not  there  to  see,  and  the  contemporary  authors 
do  not  mention  the  fact,  we  can  dismiss  this  with 
similarly  exaggerated  stories.  Not  that  the  use  of 
these  aids  to  piety  or  tickets  to  heaven  is  even  now 
extinct ;  the  idea  may  still  be  found  set  forth,  with 
both  precision  and  logic,  in  any  manual  of  prayers 
under  the  heading  "Brown  Scapular,"  or  "St.  Simon 
Stock."  More  ridiculous  and  more  wicked  were  the 
figments  of  imagination,  by  means  of  which  men  tried 
to  dissuade  Antonine  from  undertaking  this  war. 
They  told  him  that  these  Marcomanni  had  been 
conquered  by  means  of  enchantments  and  magic 
ceremonies,  the  sole  property  of  Chaldeans  and 
other  soothsayers.  Remove  these  enchantments, 
and    those    same    enemies    of    the    Empire    would 


break  out  into  open  rebellion  once  more.  Antonine, 
therefore,  sought  to  know  the  enchantments  and 
how  to  destroy  them,  so  that  a  pretext  might  be 
found  for  recommencing  the  war,  which  he,  as  an 
Antonine,  was  eager  to  finish,  lest  that  honour 
should  lall  to  another.  Here  even  Lampridius  is 
sympathetic  ;  he  says  that  a  war  would  have  enabled 
the  Emperor  to  merit  the  name  of  Antonine,  which 
he,  along  with  nearly  all  the  others,  had  sullied  ;  but 
the  opportunity  was  not  given  him  ;  death  came  too 
soon  to  enable  him  to  make  the  preparations. 

Lampridius  now  enters  upon  a  few  more  pious 
reflections,  and  in  the  course  of  his  argument  a  few 
more  terminological  inexactitudes  concerning  the 
Emperor's  name  and  family  history.  He  states 
that  Antonine  had  not  only  usurped  that  august 
name,  but  had  profaned  it,  until  it  became  a  name 
of  public  ridicule  ;  that  he  was  called  nothing  but 
Varius  and  Heliogabalus.  These  remarks  are  both 
unnecessary  and  untrue.  The  Emperor  was  never 
called  either  Varius  or  Heliogabalus.  The  name 
of  his  God,  which  he  assumed  at  Nicomedia,  was 
never  in  any  sort  of  way  an  official  title  ;  neither 
does  Varius  appear  on  any  known  coin,  inscription, 
or  document.  This  Emperor  is  frequently  cited  as 
Priest  of  Elagabal,  Priest  of  the  Most  High  God, 
which  title  was,  by  the  way,  often  obliterated  on  the 
monuments  instead  of  the  name  Antonine,  when 
Alexander  defaced,  or  partly  defaced,  these  after 
his  cousin's  death. 

Like  the  name  Jahwe,  the  El  of  the  Hebrews, 
this  name   Elagabal,   the   El   of  the   Emesans,  was 


in  all  probability  considered  too  holy  for  common 
use,  at  least  during  the  Emperor's  lifetime.  After 
his  death,  it  was  applied  to  him  as  a  sort  of 
nickname,  just  as  Caligula  or  Caracalla  had  been 
applied  to  former  Emperors,  or  even  like  the  term 
"  Romanist  "  was  applied  more  recently  to  the  last 
Stuart  King  of  this  country.^ 

To  this  latter  period  of  the  reign  we  may  ascribe 
a  certain  amount  of  Antonine's  activity  in  building. 
Lampridius  mentions  at  least  two  monuments  of 
importance,  the  first  a  gigantic  column  which  he 
purposed  to  erect,  a  staircase  inside,  round  which 
should  be  engraved  or  chiselled,  not  the  history  of 
the  Emperor's  deeds,  not  even  the  history  of  the 
family  exploits,  but  a  record  of  the  miracles  which 
God  had  wrought,  and  for  which  men  gave  thanks. 
Antonine  was  murdered  before  the  project  could  be 
fulfilled,  and  Rome  lost  the  finest  of  those  most 
beautiful  relics  of  antiquity — the  columns  which 
still  grace  her  forums  and  market-places.  The 
second  was  a  high  tower  which  he  built  in  accord- 
ance with  the  prophecy  of  certain  Syrian  priests,  that 
his  death  as  well  as  his  life  should  be  violent.  All 
traces  of  this  tower  and  its  location  have  disap- 
peared ;  so  have  the  sheets  of  gold  covered  with 
jewels,  with  which  he  paved  the  court  below,  in 
pursuance  of  his  desire  to  perish  magnificently. 
The  idea  of  this  extravagance  was  that  of  a  splendid 

1  The  change  of  the  name  to  its  Greek  and  commonly  received  form  is 
lOO  years  later  than  Elagabalus,  in  fact  it  occurs  first  in  Lampridius,  and 
was  seemingly  born  of  the  necessity,  which  had  been  suggested  to  Constantine, 
of  connecting  the  old  worship  of  the  only  God  with  that  of  Mithra  the  Persian 
Sun  deity. 


suicide,  to  be  accomplished  by  throwing  himself  from 
the- summit  of  the  tower  on  to  the  sparkling  beauty 
beneath,  thus  finding  sensuousness  even  in  death. 
Antonine  had  read  lambulus  ;  he  knew  the  history 
of  the  men  in  the  Fortunate  Isles,  who.  when  they 
were  overtaken  by  the  ennui  of  sheer  happiness,  lay 
on  perfumed  grass  which  had  the  faculty  of  produc- 
ing a  voluptuous  death.  His  conception  was  not 
so  easy,  but  what  it  lost  in  ease  it  gained  in 

In  addition  to  these  works,  mention  must  be  made 
of  the  completion  of  the  Antonine  baths,  now  known 
as  those  of  Caracalla,  the  Thermae  Varianae  on  the 
Aventine,  which  are  variously  named  by  Pauly  as 
Thermae  Syrae  or  Surae,  and  the  hall  built  for 
the  Senaculum  on  the  Quirinal.  These  are  authentic 
works,  and  there  are  many  other  instances  cited  by 
Lampridius  of  this  Emperor's  passion  for  building. 
We  hear  of  houses,  baths,  huge  salt-water  lakes, 
built  in  the  mountains  and  fastnesses  of  the  country 
districts.  All  these  were  erected,  so  the  story  goes, 
but  for  a  moment,  as  temporary  shelters  for  the 
monarch  when  travelling,  and  were  destroyed  when 
once  he  had  reached  his  next  habitation.  Even 
Lampridius  states  that  such  records  are  obviously 
false,  the  inventions  of  those  who  wished  to  malign 
Antonine,  once  Alexander  was  possessed  of  the 
supreme  power,  sycophants  Lampridius  calls  them, 
who  makes  such  a  poor  show  himself  when  occupying 
that  unenviable  position  at  Constantine's  bidding. 

There  is  yet  another  point  which  must  be 
examined   in   connection   with   the   murder  of  this 

i88  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

Emperor,  namely  the  so-called  disaffection  of  the 
soldiers.  Time  and  again,  throughout  the  history  of 
the  reign,  we  learn  from  coins  and  inscriptions  that 
Antonine  was  popular  with  all  ranks  of  the  army. 
On  the  other  hand,  we  have  the  repeated  assurance 
of  all  authors,  both  Greek  and  Latin,  that  the 
Emperor  was  continually  losing  his  popularity. 

More  reliance  could  be  placed  on  the  written 
testimony  if  the  authors  agreed  as  to  when  this 
popularity  was  lost.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  Lampridius 
ascribes  the  beginning,  progress,  and  culmination  of 
this  dislike  to  each  separate  year ;  on  the  later  occa- 
sions, seemingly,  because  he  had  forgotten  that  he 
had  already  stated  definitely  that  the  affection  for 
the  Emperor  was  a  thing  of  the  past.  Neverthe- 
less, the  story  cannot  be  entirely  dismissed  as  a  mere 
fable,  since  there  were  two  military  risings  or  dis- 
turbances, in  the  second  of  which  the  Emperor  lost 
his  life. 

The  question  must  occur  as  to  whether  these 
are  traceable  to  actual  disaffection  or  to  some 
conspiracy.  The  side-lights  which  all  authors  throw 
on  the  progress  of  events  leave  no  doubt  in  our 
minds  that  the  two  risings  were  definite  conspiracies, 
worked  up  by  interested  persons, — such  wholly  un- 
successful plots  as  those  of  Seius  Carus  and 
Pomponius  Bassus  may  be  left  out  of  consideration 
here,  as  they  were  at  once  discovered  and  as  easily 
frustrated.  The  fact  remains,  however,  that 
Antonine  was  killed,  most  probably  in  the  Prae- 
torian camp,  and  that  his  body,  having  been  dragged 
about  the  city,  was  thrown  into  the  Tiber,  near  the 


Aemilian  Bridge,  or  else  cast  down  a  drain  which 
ran  into  the  river,  in  order  to  show  contempt  for 
his  sacred  person.  Again,  there  was  no  effort  made 
to  punish  the  wrong-doers.  The  Praetorians  them- 
selves, when  they  knew  of  the  murder,  made  no 
outcry,  which  circumstances  tend  to  show  a  certain 
amount  of  acquiescence  on  the  part  of  the  soldiers 
and  people.  How,  then,  had  Antonine  alienated  in 
222  the  men  who  in  220  testified  such  devotion  to 
his  person  and  rule  ? 

A  considerable  amount  of  disaffection  can  be 
traced  to  the  foolish  neglect  which  the  Emperor 
showed  towards  his  troops.  He  was  their  nominee  ; 
to  them  he  owed  his  throne.  He  had  promised 
them  the  money,  privileges,  and  affection  which 
had  been  his  father's  special  care.  Once  in  sure 
possession  of  the  Empire,  this  policy  was  changed. 
The  first  congiary  in  218  was  undoubtedly  accom- 
panied by  a  donative  of  satisfying  amplitude.  At 
the  second  (on  the  occasion  of  his  first  marriage) 
we  are  told  that  the  Emperor  gave  more  to  the 
humblest  citizen  of  Rome,  more  to  the  wives  of  the 
Senators,  than  he  bestowed  on  the  men  who  had 
placed  him  on  the  throne  a  year  previously.  There 
is  no  record  of  any  other  liberality  until  the  early 
part  of  the  year  221,  on  the  occasion  of  the  dual 
marriage,  his  own  with  Aquilia  Severa  and  that  of 
his  God  with  Vesta,  the  Madonna  of  Old  Rome. 
On  this  occasion  no  mention  is  made  of  any  money 
distributed  to  the  military  forces.  The  same  may 
be  said  for  the  fourth  liberality,  given  in  July  221,  to 
celebrate  the  adoption  of  Alexander. 


These  official  liberalities  were  by  no  means  the 
only  distributions  by  which  Antonine  endeared 
himself  to  the  civilian  populace.  On  the  occasion 
of  his  taking  the  Consulate,  he  went  out  of  his  way 
to  bestow  magnificent  gifts  on  the  populace.  After 
the  great  summer  procession  in  221  he  distributed 
a  vast  number  of  costly  presents  amongst  the  crowd. 
He  instituted  two  lotteries,  one  for  the  comedians, 
one  for  the  citizens.  He  gave  to  his  friends  and  to 
the  poor  more  than  they  could  carry  away,  but  on 
all  of  these  occasions  we  are  expressly  told  that  he 
limited  his  generosity  to  the  civil  population. 

Obviously  Antonine  was  tired  of  the  army.  And, 
being  Emperor,  he  decided  to  give  to  whomsoever 
he  pleased,  to  neglect  whom  he  would.  It  was  not 
immoral,  at  least  in  our  judgment,  it  was  stupid, 
which  is  far  worse,  and,  as  every  one  has  discovered 
for  himself,  stupidity  brings  greater  penalties  than 

Of  the  fourth  and  fifth  congiaries,  concerning 
which  Mediobarbus  speaks,  we  can  say  nothing,  as 
in  the  opinion  of  competent  numismatists  (Cohen 
and  Eckhel)  they  do  not  belong  to  this  reign  at  all ; 
there  certainly  are  coins  bearing  the  inscription 
"  Marcus  Aurelius  Antoninus,"  and  on  the  obverse 
"  Liberalitas  V.  VI."  ;  but  science  and  discrimination 
now  assign  these  to  the  reign  of  Caracalla,  not  to 
that  of  the  Emperor  under  discussion. 

There  is  certainly  one  point  of  view  from  which 
this  neglect  of  the  soldiers  appeared  immoral,  namely, 
the  military.  Promises  had  been  made  and,  as 
is    usual    with    promises,  they    had    been    broken. 



Mamaea  took  advantage  of  this  circumstance,  and 
small  wonder  if,  her  secret,  though  regular,  distribu- 
tions aiding,  the  lords  of  Rome  felt  that  their  position 
was  ignominious  when  they  saw  others,  actors, 
sycophants,  loafers,  procurers,  strumpets,  and  the 
like,  receiving  what  they  felt  was  theirs  by  right ; 
small  wonder  if  they  listened  to  and  profited  by  her 
promises  of  the  substantial  gratitude  which  would 
follow  the  substitution  of  Alexander  for  the  un- 
grateful civilian  who  now  held  the  purse-strings. 

It  must  be  confessed  that  Mamaea's  money  and 
promises  were  of  little  effect  while  Antonine  lived. 
The  Emperor  was  certainly  well  served.  Each  plot 
was  easily  frustrated  ;  never  would  sufficient  men 
turn  out  in  rebellion.  When  he  died,  those  whom 
she  had  paid  most  liberally  convinced  the  rest  of  their 
proper  attitude,  and  the  first  liberality  of  Alexander's 
reign  was  a  sufficient  pourboire  to  close  most  mouths. 
Those  who  created  disturbances  followed  their 
master  to  the  grave,  or  rather  the  cloaca. 

The  exact  time  of  Antonine's  murder  is,  aswe  have 
said,  most  uncertain.  Dion  ascribes  to  him  a  tenure 
of  power  lasting  3  years  9  months  and  4  days  from 
the  day  of  the  battle  in  which  he  gained  supreme 
command — Sth  June  218.  This  fixes  the  day  of 
his  death  as  iith  March  222.  It  is  a  statement 
with  which  the  editors  of  the  Prosopographia,  Groebe, 
Salzer,  and  Rubensohn,  all  agree.  The  Liber 
gencrationis^  gives  6  years  8  months  and  28  days, 
and   is   supported   by  the   Chronicle  of  354,  which 

'  Tlie  numlxr  of  years   in  the  Liber  geturationis  is,  however,  debatable, 
since  Rubensohn  gives  three  years  in  his  edition. 

192  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

gives  equally  explicitly  6  years  8  months  and  i8 
days.  The  discrepancy  is  at  first  sight  most  dis- 
concerting, especially  as  the  two  latter  statements 
are  both — at  least  nominally — official.  The  coins 
limit  the  reign  to  four  years  at  the  outside,  in  con- 
sequence of  which  some  explanation  has  to  be  found 
for  the  extraordinary  addition  of  three  years  in  both 
the  Chronicle  and  the  Liber  generationis.  Momm- 
sen  has  suggested  that  a  deflection  of  the  two  first 
strokes  of  III  in  the  number  of  the  years  has  created 
the  error  in  both  these  documents.  Later  writers 
have  accounted  for  the  difference  between  Dion's 
Vim  months  and  the  VIII  of  the  Latin  sources,  as 
due  to  the  omission  of  one  stroke  in  the  latter,  the 
confusion  in  the  number  of  days  by  the  fact  that  an 
X  has  been  omitted  in  the  Chronicle.  Mommsen's 
emendation  seems  perfectly  plausible,  but  the  absurd 
quibbles  used  to  bring  into  agreement  what  was  in 
all  probability  for  some  time  a  moot  point  can  be 
passed  over  without  much  mention. 

Rubensohn  has  a  much  more  reasonable  con- 
clusion, namely,  that  the  times  given  in  the 
Chronicle  and  Liber  generationis  refer  not  to  the 
date  of  the  battle  at  all,  but  to  the  date  of  the  pro- 
clamation or  to  the  date  of  Julianus'  defeat,  some  time 
during  the  early  days  of  May  218.  Lampridius,  of 
course,  chips  in  with  another  discordant  note, 
namely,  that  "  a.d.  pridie  nonas  Martias  "  the 
Senate  received  their  new  Emperor  Alexander, with 
acclamations,  but  for  present  purposes  he  may  be 
left  out  of  count,  as  we  have  no  confirmation  of 
this  very  late  statement.     Eutropius'  statement  of 


2  years  and  8  months  refers  only  to  the  residence 
in  Rome,  and  Victor's  30  months  is  utterly  out  of 
the  question,  as  is  also  Lampridius'  statement  that 
this  monster  occupied  the  throne  for  nearly  three 
years.  Still  more  disconcerting  than  the  wild 
statements  of  the  biographers  is  the  fact  that  right 
up  to  8th  December  222  certain  rescripts  are  dated 
with  the  names  of  both  Antonine  and  Alexander, 
"  Conss,"  ;  two  only,  one  in  March  and  one  in 
October,  appear  with  Alexander  as  sole  Consul,  and 
this  inscription  occurs  on  a  rescript  dated  "III  non. 
Febr,,"  when,  if  any  other  evidence  is  to  be 
accepted,  Antonine  was  still  alive.  It  was  on  this 
count  that  Stobbe  based  his  assertion  that  Antonine 
was  killed,  or  at  least  put  out  of  the  government,  as 
early  as  5th  or  6th  January,  and  that  Mamaea  used 
her  new  power  as  soon  as  ever  Alexander  was 
officially  recognised  as  Consul.  It  is  certainly  a 
theory  for  which  something  may  be  said,  but  would 
entirely  dispose  of  the  circumstantial  accounts  which 
the  historians  have  left  of  the  boy's  murder.  If  this 
supposition  is  true,  then  Mamaea  possessed  herself 
of  the  Emperor's  person  by  means  of  a  riot  in  the 
camp,  immediately  after  Alexander  became  Con- 
sul, deprived  him  of  his  friends  and  support,  and 
thus  gradually  accustomed  the  populace  to  his 
absence,  before  she  killed  him.  This  would  cer- 
tainly account  for  the  placidity  with  which  Rome 
received  news  of  his  death  al  some  later  period,  but 
would  not  account  for  the  discrepancy  of  the  coins 
and  rescripts,  the  first  of  which  make  Alexander 
sole    Emperor   by   the    early   summer,    the   second, 


194  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

which  call  Antonine  Consul,  presume  that  he  was  still 
alive  as  late  as  December  in  the  same  year  (222). 

From    a    numismatic    point  of  view  there   have 
been  further  difficulties  raised  as  to  the  length  of 
the  reign,  on  account  of  Antonine  having  reached 
his  fourth  Consulate  and  fifth  tribunician  year,  but 
these  have  been  raised  by  persons  who  have  neglected 
Eckhel  and  have  not  always  verified  their  references. 
The  regular  coins  tell  us  that  Antonine  had  reached 
his  fourth  Consulate  and  fifth  year  of  tribunician  power 
when  he  died.     Certain  writers,  notably  Valsecchius 
and  Pagi,  have  postulated  that  the  Emperors  always 
renewed  the  tribunician  powers  on  the  anniversary 
of  their   succession,   others,    such    as    Stobbe,   that 
the  date  of  the  tribunician  power  would  always  be 
put  on  each  coin  when  that  of  the  Consulship  was 
given.      Neither   of  these    contentions   can   be   ad- 
mitted  for  an  instant,  as  Eckhel  has  proved  most 
conclusively,  and  as  can   be   further   demonstrated 
from  the  very  coins  these  writers  cite  as  proofs  of 
their  several  contentions.     Valsecchius'  theory  was 
that   Antonine   thought   he   began   to  reign  on  the 
murder  of  his  father  Caracalla,  and  dated  his  tribun- 
ician year  in  consequence  from  8th  April  2 1 7.     This 
would  make  him  in  his  second  tribunician  year  by 
8th  June  218,  and  the  coins  should  appear  as  "T.P. 
II  Cos."      Unfortunately  for  the  theory,  there  is  not 
'  a  single  example  of  this  aberration,  as  Turre  pointed 
out  some  centuries  ago.      Pagi,  on  the  other  hand, 
thought  that  Antonine  dated   his  reign   from    i6th 
March    218,   and    renewed    his    tribunician    powers 
every  year  on  that  date ;  he  accepted  Dion's  date, 

vii  SUPPLEMENTARY  MATTER        195 

nth  March,  for  Antonine's  decease,  and,  in  con- 
sequence, postulated  that  coins  struck  with  the 
legend  "  T  PV  Cos  1 1 II  "  were  struck  in  anticipation 
of  the  event  of  i6th  March  222.  Against  this 
Eckhel  urges  that  the  whole  theory  is  utterly  un- 
necessary, because  it  throws  all  the  rest  of  the  coins 
out  of  date  in  order  to  make  a  setting  for  nine, 
which  are  in  reality  perfectly  regular. 

The  truth  obviously  lies  in  Eckhel's  theory,  which 
has  been  rejected  by  Stobbe  because  it  is  so  simple 
and  obvious,  namely,  that  Antonine  renewed  both 
consular  and  tribunician  powers  on  the  same  day, 
ist  January,  a  contention  which  the  Fasti  Romani 
amply  corroborate.  Naturally,  as  we  know  from 
Dion,  the  first  year  began  on  8th  June,  when 
Antonine's  name  was  substituted  for  that  of  Macri- 
nus.  On  ist  January  219  Antonine  took  his  second 
Consulship  and  second  tribunician  powers.  On 
ist  January  220  the  Emperor  became  Consul  for 
the  third  time.  Tribune  of  the  People  third  time. 
On  ist  January  221  Gratus  and  Seleucus  were 
Consuls,  Antonine  Tribune  of  the  People  fourth 
time;  ist  January  222  Antonine  and  Alexander 
Coss.  nil  and  I,  Antonine  Tribune  of  the  People 
fifth  time.  All  is  duly  set  out  on  the  coins  in 
regular  order. 

The  basis  for  other  theories  was  found  by  fertile 
brains  when  Cohen  listed  a  few  irregularities  in  the 
dating,  notably  three  coins  dated  T.P.  Cos.  II,  which 
just  inverted  Valsecchius'  theory,  and,  said  Stobbe, 
showed  that  the  Emperor  had  renewed  his  Consulate 
on  ist  January,  and  had  not  yet  renewed  his  powers 


as  Tribune  of  the  People.  It  was  undoubtedly 
plausible,  but  Stobbe  omitted  to  notice  another  coin 
whose  date  is  T.P.  Cos.  II II,  which,  on  his  own 
theory  of  the  number  invariably  affixed  to  T.P.  as 
well  as  to  Cos.,  would  signify  that  the  Emperor  had 
never  renewed  his  tribunician  powers  at  all,  or  else 
had  renewed  his  consular  powers  four  times  in  one 
year,  both  of  which  ideas  are  demonstrably  absurd. 
Along  with  his  supposition  that  the  number  would 
always  be  affixed  to  T.P.  whenever  it  also  followed 
Cos.,  Stobbe  formulated  another  theory  partly 
based  on  the  idea  which  had  been  enunciated  by 
Pagi  concerning  the  date  of  the  coins  marked  T.P. 
V  Cos.  I  III,  and  supported  his  contention  from 
an  example  listed  by  Cohen  as  T.P.  I II I,  Cos.  IIII. 
It  was  to  the  effect  that  as  the  Emperors  Septimius 
Severus,  Caracalla,  Geta,  and  Alexander  Severus 
had  renewed  their  tribunician  powers  about  the 
middle  of  January,  Antonine  had  done  the  same, 
and  that  the  paucity  of  the  coins  marked  T.P.  V  Cos. 
IIII  is  due  to  the  fact  that  he  was  murdered  very 
shortly  after,  if  not  before  the  issue  was  completed, 
and  the  tribunicial  renewal  had  taken  place.  Stobbe's 
proof  lay  in  the  fact  that  Cohen  had  listed  these 
three  coins  as  above  (T.P.  IIII  Cos.  IIII),  which, 
this  critic  affirmed,  were  issued  after  January  ist 
and  before  the  tribunicial  renewal,  —  about  the 
middle  of  the  month. 

But  it  was  mere  theory  on  both  counts.  As 
Egbert  showed  later,  the  tribunicial  renewal  in  the 
case  of  Septimius,  Caracalla,  and  Geta  was  not  early 
in  January  at  all ;  it  was  on  the  loth  of  December. 

Coin  of  A.ii.  jjo.  iiiisrciui  by  Cohen  a.'5   IM'.  Ill  Cos.   IIII 
\liritish  Miibi-uni). 



Coin  u(  A.l).  221,  misread  by  Cohen  as  T.  P.   IIII  Cos.   Ill 
( British  Museum). 

Coin  of  A  II.  222  ( Mriti>li  Mustnnn). 

/•'ace /agt  196. 


Macrinus'  renewal  was  early  in  January,  so  was 
Alexander's,  but  this  was  not  conclusive  evidence 
that  Antonine  renewed  his  powers  on  the  same 
date.  There  certainly  are  coins,  three  of  them, 
listed  by  Cohen,  two  in  France  at  the  Bib.  Nat., 
and  one  in  the  British  Museum  marked  T.P.  IIII 
Cos.  IIII.  This  was  clear  proof,  said  Stobbe,  that 
the  tribunician  powers  were  renewed  after  the 
consular  powers,  and  that  T.P.  V  Cos.  IIII  were 
later  in  the  same  year  (222)  than  T.P.  IIII  Cos. 
IIII.  The  French  coins  I  have  not  seen,  but  I 
have  had  the  privilege  of  examining  that  in  the 
British  Museum  (Cohen,  vol.  iv.  p.  342,  No.  197), 
and  find  that  Cohen  has  misread  the  number  affixed 
to  the  Cos. ;  it  is  listed  as  T.P.  IIII  Cos.  IIII,  but  is 
in  reality  T.P.  IIII  Cos.  Ill  P.P.  (i.e.  the  year  221). 
The  first  P  has  been  read  into  the  number, — which 
same  inscription  is  most  probably  on  the  French 
coins  as  well  as  on  that  in  the  British  Museum,  since 
it  appears  gratuitous  to  impute  a  mistake  to  con- 
temporaries by  way  of  making  copy  for  later  critics. 
I  have  noted  yet  another  mistake,  namely,  two 
coins  listed  by  Cohen  as  irregularities ;  they  are 
dated,  T.P.  Ill  Cos.  IIII  (p.  344,  Nos.  210,211). 
On  these  another  admirable  theory  has  been  based, 
namely,  that  Antonine  was  going  to  take  the  Con- 
sulate, had  his  coins  struck,  and  then  backed  out  at 
the  beginning  of  221,  thus  before  he  had  renewed 
his  powers  as  tribune.  Again  very  pretty,  but  the 
British  Museum  has  the  coins,  and  they  are  not 
dated  T.P.  Ill  Cos.  IIII  at  all;  they  are  quite 
ordinary — T.P.  1 1 1  Cos.  1 1 1,  or  of  the  year  220,  and 

198  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

there  is  no  need  to  transpose  the  numbers,  which  is 
an  alternative  theory  to  that  stated  above. 

The  evidence  from  the  coins  is  quite  conclusive. 
The  Em.peror  renewed  his  dual  powers  either  on 
the  same  day,  ist  January,  or  on  a  day  immediately 
succeeding.  As  Eckhel  pointed  out  in  1792  there 
is  no  coin  which,  if  the  date  be  correctly  read,  gives 
any  countenance  to  any  other  theory,  while  all  such 
are  unnecessary  and  at  variance  with  known  facts. 

Lampridius  gives  us  a  certain  amount  of  evidence 
that  the  Emperor  took  an  interest  in  the  affairs 
of  state  all  through  his  life,  both  by  his  account  of 
Antonine's  sagacity  as  a  judge,  and  his  desire  to 
appoint  fourteen  praefects  of  the  city,  under  the 
headship  of  the  Imperial  Praefectus  Urbis  or  Urbi. 
Naturally,  the  desire  is  attributed  to  base  motives, 
namely,  in  order  to  benefit  unworthy  persons.  The 
scheme,  Lampridius  tells  us,  was  actually  carried  into 
operation  during  Alexander's  reign,  and  is  then 
applauded  as  useful  and  necessary,  an  obvious  bit  of 
special  pleading  on  one  side  or  the  other. 

It  is  with  a  singularly  unanimous  voice  that  the 
authors  announce  the  general  execration  against 
the  memory  of  Antonine,  and  the  joy  shown  by  the 
populace  in  dragging  his  dead  body  about  the  city. 
All  are  certain  that  the  Senate  made  a  general  order 
to  deface  the  name  of  Antonine  on  all  monuments 
and  documents  through  the  Empire,  as  soon  as  that 
dishonoured  Emperor  was  safely  out  of  the  way.  - 

The  unanimity  is  wonderful ;  all  the  more  won- 
derful because  so  utterly  unusual.  Unfortunately,  it 
is  in  no  way  borne  out  by  the  inscriptions.    We  have 



mentioned  the  rescripts  which  for  the  most  part  bear 
Antonine's  name  throughout  the  whole  year  222. 
This  circumstance  is  hardly  in  consonance  with  the 
senatorial  action  in  ordering  all  mention  of  the 
dishonoured  Emperor  to  be  expunged  {i.e.  while  they 
themselves  continue  to  use  his  name  publicly  and 
officially).  Again,  there  is  an  inscription  C.I.L.  VI. 
3015,  set  up  in  July  222,  which  commemorates  both 
Consuls  as  though  alive ;  and  another,  though  probably 
a  forgery  of  Ligorius,  No.  5  70,  in  which  the  two  names 
appear  on  13th  April  of  the  same  year.  Surely  this 
would  have  been  impossible  if  Antonine  were  dead 
and  the  Senate  had  ordered  his  name  to  be  erased 
everywhere.  This  order,  however,  cannot  be  taken 
literally;  an  examination  of  the  existing  inscriptions 
gives  quite  other  results. 

The  name  of  Antonine  is  erased,  but  only  in  40 
known    cases,    while    in    certain    places    the     name 
Alexander  is  substituted  for  that  of  Antonine,  which, 
if    usual,    is    rather    a   cheap    way    of   getting    the 
honour  and  renown  belonging  to  another.      A  few- 
African  inscriptions   blot  out   the    Emperor's  claim 
to  be  grandson  of  Severus,  and  a  few  in  different 
parts   of  the    Empire  blot   out    the    title    Priest    of 
Elagabal,     witness     the     inscription     at     Walwick 
Chesters.      In  52  cases  the  names,  styles,  and  titles 
of  Antonine  are  left  intact,  which  makes  it  improbable 
that    there    was    any    great   campaign    against    his 
memory,  such  as  Lampridius  would  have  us  believe 
that  every  one  in  the  Empire  was  only  too  anxious 
to  institute. 

Dion  and  Lampridius  both  tell  us  that  Antonine 



was  called  Tiberinus  and  Tractitius  after  his  death, 
in  reference  to  the  shameful  treatment  which  his 
,body  was  supposed  to  have  met  with  after  his 
murder,  and  the  final  act  of  throwing  it  into  the 
river  in  order  that  it  should  never  be  buried.  Sar- 
danapalus  is  another  epithet  applied  to  him  by  Dion 
and  his  copier  Zonaras,  who  also  call  him  Pseudo- 
Antonine,  in  reference  to  his  grandmother's  state- 
ment made  "through  hatred"  in  221,  that  not  he  but 
Alexander  was  the  only  legitimate  bastard;  such 
and  the  like  were  the  taunting  adjectives  by  means 
of  which  the  biographers  sought  to  defame  the 
boy's  memory. 

Here,  for  all  practical  purposes,  Lampridius' 
account  of  the  Emperor's  life  ceases.  There  are  still 
seventeen  chapters  of  mere  biographical  scandal, 
some  of  it  illuminating,  some  hypocritically  obscene. 
Nevertheless,  it  has  been  possible  to  abstract  from 
these  sections  a  certain  amount  of  information 
descriptive  of  the  boy's  extravagances  and  their 
setting,  his  psychology  and  its  result,  his  religious 
ambitions,  and  with  them  the  reasons  for  his 

These  are  all  obvious  traits  in  Antonine's  charac- 
ter, and  can  be  discerned  despite  the  mass  of  exag- 
gerations and  hostility  with  which  the  pages  abound. 
To  criticise  these  statements  in  any  sort  of  detail  is, 
however,  obviously  impossible  on  the  information  at 
present  available,  and  furthermore,  we  are  scarcely 
competent  to  judge  the  period  from  our  modern 
standpoint  of  prejudice. 

There  is  no  period  of  history  which  fully  corre- 


spends  to  these  last  years  of  imperial  greatness;  few 
men  who  embody  the  spirit  which  breathed  life  into 
all  that  splendour,  and  even  fewer  in  the  modern 
world  who  understand  the  revived  paganism  of  the 
Renaissance.  Here  too  there  was  a  difference.  In 
old  Rome  it  has  been  said  that  a  sin  was  a  prayer  ; 
under  Leo  X.  it  was,  rather,  a  taxable  luxury.  Sin- 
ning is  still  a  luxury,  but  no  longer  taxable  ;  the 
Reformation  has  set  us  free  from  such  extortion  and 
restraint,  and  supplied  us  with  hypocrisy  and  cant 
to  take  its  place. 

From  Suetonius  we  gather  that  the  Roman  world 
sinned  and  sparkled;  we  still  sin,  but  are  perforce  to 
yawn  in  the  process.  The  world  of  Suetonius  was 
the  world  ou  on  sen  Jichait.  Our  world  is  the 
world  oil  on  s'efinuie.  Hence  our  inability  to  grasp 
the  spirit  of  philosophical  paganism,  a  spirit  whose 
morality  does  not  consist  in  improper  thoughts  about 
other  people,  but  in  a  mind  set  free  from  terror  of 
the  Gods,  not  very  much  caring  what  other  people 
do  so  long  as  they  do  not  interfere  with  us. 

It  is  thus  that  we  must  view  Elagabalus.  To 
look  at  him  through  any  other  spectacles  is  to 
examine  the  restless,  frivolous,  perhaps  debased 
dragon-rty  as  though  he  were  a  vampire,  and  then, 
imagination  aiding,  describe  him  as  a  stampeding 
unicorn  with  a  taste  for  marrofis  glacds. 

It  is  absurd,  purely  grotesque,  this  caricature 
we  have  of  Antonine  ;  perhaps  that  is  why  the  world 
has  left  him  alone,  that  they  may  gaze  the  longer  on 
a  mask  that  allures.  If  these  criticisms  have  done 
anything    to    remove    part    of  the    accretions    with 

202  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS       chap,  vn 

which  the  world  has  daubed  his  figure  at  the 
bidding  of  his  relations,  the  trouble  is  amply  repaid. 
Naturally,  this  monograph  is  not  the  last  word;  it 
is,  on  the  other  hand,  the  first,  put  forward  in  the 
hope  that  it  may  at  least  commend  itself  as  a  point 
of  view.  Neither  is  it  a  compromise  with  the 
proprieties,  which  are,  after  all,  in  the  modern  world, 
little  else  save  a  compromise  with  either  our  neigh- 
bours or  the  police ;  what  one  expects  from  them, 
certainly  not  how  much  they  may  expect  from 
oneself,  or  even  from  Elagabalus. 



This  Antonine  has  been  accused  of  building  the 
Cloaca  Maxima,  into  which,  a  century  later,  all 
Rome  rolled,  largely  on  the  grounds  that  he 
divorced  at  least  three  wives,  and  was  himself 
wife  of  the  Chariot  Driver  Hierocles,  amongst  others 
of  his  unusually  numerous  acquaintance. 

The  imputation  of  excavating  in  Rome  cannot 
be  attributed  to  Elagabalus  alone.  Augustus  had 
done  a  little  digging  there,  but  hypocritically,  as  he 
did  everything  else,  devising  ethical  laws  as  a  cloak 
for  turpitudes  of  his  own ;  Caligula  had  done  the  same, 
so  had  Nero,  Hadrian,  and  Caracalla.  Maecenas 
divorced  himself  and  remarried  twenty  times,  as  both 
ceremonies  were  less  expensive  than  they  are  to-day. 
Suetonius  said  of  Caligula  that  it  was  uncertain 
which  was  the  vilest,  the  unions  hf-  contracted,  their 
brevity,  or  their  cause.  With  such  examples,  it  was 
inevitable  that  ordinary  people  should  unite  but 
to  part,  and  that  insensibly  the  law  should  annul  as 
a  caprice,  a  clause  that  defined  marriage  as  the 
inseparable  life. 

Under  the  Caesars,  marriage  became  a  temporary 


204  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

arrangement  abandoned  and  re-established  at  will. 
Seneca  said  that  women  of  rank  counted  their  years 
by  their  husbands ;  Juvenal,  that  it  was  in  such 
fashion  they  counted  their  days.  Paul,  in  a  letter 
whose  verbosity  apes  philosophical  phraseology, 
regarded  the  privileges  of  divorce  as  inherent  in  the 
patriarchal  theories  of  family  life.  Tertullian  added, 
somewhat  sapiently,  that  divorce  was  the  result  ot 

Divorce,  however,  was  never  obligatory,  matri- 
mony was.  According  to  the  Lex  Papia  Poppoea, 
whoso  at  twenty  -  five  was  unmarried ;  whoso, 
divorced  or  widowed,  did  not  remarry ;  whoso, 
though  married,  was  childless  became  ipso  facto  a 
public  enemy. 

To  this  law,  as  was  obviously  necessary,  only  a 
technical  attention  was  paid.  Men  married  just 
enough  to  gain  a  position  or  inherit  a  legacy ; 
the  next  day  they  got  a  divorce.  At  the  moment  of 
need  a  child  was  adopted ;  the  moment  passed,  the 
child  was  disowned.  As  with  men,  so  with  women. 
The  Univira  became  the  many -husbanded  wife, 
occasionally  a  matron  with  no  husband  at  all ; 
one  who,  to  escape  the  consequences  of  the  Lex 
Papia  Poppoea,  hired  a  man  to  lend  her  his  name, 
and  who,  with  an  establishment  of  her  own,  was  free 
to  do  as  she  liked  ;  to  imitate  men  at  their  worst  ; 
to  fight  like  them  and  with  them  for  power ;  to 
dabble  in  the  bloody  drama  of  state ;  to  cHmb 
on  the  throne  and  kill  there  or  be  killed.  The 
Empire  had  liberated  women  from  domestic  tyranny, 
just  as  it  had  liberated  men  from  that  of  the  state. 


WIVES  OF  THE   EMPEROR         205 

Such  was  the  position  of  matrimony  when, 
early  in  July  219,  the  Emperor  Marcus  Aurelius 
Antoninus  took  to  wife  the  Lady  Julia  Cornelia 
Paula,  of  the  well-known  though  by  no  means 
patrician  family  of  Cornelia.  Her  father  was  Julius 
Paulus,  probably  one  of  the  most  famous  juris- 
consults and  lawyers  Rome  has  ever  known.  As 
father-in-law  to  an  Emperor,  his  position  was  doubt- 
less, like  that  of  Sylla,  the  father-in-law  of  Caesar, 
somewhat  heady.  Unfortunately  it  impaired  his 
usefulness  to  a  considerable  degree.  We  learn 
from  the  editors  of  the  Prosopograpliia  that  there  are 
only  five  decrees  on  subjects  of  jurisprudence  which 
can  be  definitely  assigned  to  this  reign,  and  from 
Lampridius  that  Paulus  was  appointed  to  the  pre- 
sumably lucrative,  though  certainly  uninspiring 
office  of  usher  to  the  young  Alexander,  on  whose 
bovine  intelligence  he  could  unfortunately  make 
no  impression.  It  is  doubtless  wrong  to  promote 
relations  to  Court  sinecures  when  they  can  be  better 
and  more  usefully  employed  in  arduous  work  for 
the  state,  but  it  is  a  position  to  which  even  the  best 
of  us  aspire  when  fatigued  with  either  a  misspent  or 
a  fiill-spent  life. 

According  to  Barrachinus,  the  family  of  Cornelia 
came  from  Padua  ;  Bertrand  says  they  were  from 
Tyro ;  and  in  Pignorius'  estimation  they  may 
even  have  seen  light  in  Rome.  Julius  and  his 
daughter  are  the  only  two  of  the  family  who  have 
come  into  prominence.  Unfortunately,  we  do  not 
know  the  date  of  the  birth  or  death  of  either,  nor  the 
year  in  which  Julius  began  to  climb  ;  suffice  it  to  say, 


that  he  had  published  many  volumes  before  the 
death  of  Septimius  Severus,  in  whose  council, 
according  to  Digest  xxix.,  he  had  a  place.  His 
first  office  seems  to  have  been  that  of  Praetor, 
and  thence  by  regular  stages  he  climbed  to  that 
of  Praefect  of  Rome,  finishing  with  the  height  of  all 
ambition,  the  Praefecture  of  the  Praetorium,  and  as 
such  he  was  a  Senator  of  the  Empire.  Tristran — who 
knew  about  as  much  of  the  lady  personally  as  you  or 
I  can — has  remarked  that  Julia  was  beautiful.  His 
taste  is  certainly  not  a  modern  one,  as  her  effigy 
represents  her  with  a  sharp  beaky  face,  and  a  long 
scraggy  neck.  This  author,  with  some  show  of 
fairness,  attempts  to  justify  his  statement  by  a  truism, 
namely,  that  the  Emperor  was  such  a  connoisseur  of 
beauty  that  he  would  never  have  chosen  a  lady 
who  had  not  this  necessary  qualification.  Precisely, 
but  did  Antonine  choose  the  lady  at  all  ?  The 
probabilities  are  that  she  was  well  over  thirty  at 
the  time  of  the  marriage,  and  that  the  Emperor 
had  neither  seen  nor  heard  of  her  before  she  was 
presented  to  him  by  his  relations,  on  his  arrival 
in  Rome ;  in  fact,  that  this  marriage  was  a  political 
move  by  means  of  which  the  official  classes  were 
closely  allied  with  the  imperial  house. 

We  have  already  described  the  pomp  and  circum- 
stance with  which  this  wedding  was  celebrated,  the 
games,  with  their  lavish  waste  of  animal  life, 
amongst  the  rarest  of  known  beasts,  the  congiary 
and  donative.  As  this  is  the  sole  mention  of  such 
splendour  on  the  occasion  of  Antonine's  committing 
matrimony,   which   holy  estate   he    is  said   to  have 


attempted  six  times  in  two  and  a  half  years,  it 
inclines  us  to  the  opinion  that  this  was  his  first 
experiment  in  that  direction,  especially  as  the 
evidence  of  coins  and  medals  is  perfectly  conclusive 
on  this  point.  Tristran  and  Serviez,  however,  place 
Annia  Faustina  as  first  wife,  on  Dion's  faulty 
arrangement  of  the  events  at  Nicomedia. 

Cornelia  Paula  was,  as  we  have  said,  a  lady 
of  some  renown  and  position.  Serviez  tells  us  that 
it  was  generally  believed  she  had  been  married 
before  ;  was  already,  in  fact,  a  mother  of  children  ; 
and  Tristran  adds,  enceinte  by  some  one  else  at  the 
time  of  the  marriage.  The  Emperor's  pretext  for 
marrying  her  seems  to  lend  support  to  this  contention. 
It  was  that  he  wished  the  sooner  to  provide  an  heir 
for  the  Empire,  though,  as  Dion  says,  he  was  not  as 
yet  a  man  himself.  Since  Cornelia  had  no  children 
by  Antonine,  and  the  reason  of  her  divorce,  as  given 
publicly,  was  a  secret  blemish  in  her  body,  which 
was  only  discovered  after  about  eighteen  months  of 
married  concord,  the  presumptive  evidence  is  against 
Serviez'  theory ;  in  fact,  it  presupposes  sterility 
rather  than  some  corporal  deformity,  or  even  over- 
fruitfulness ;  and  it,  of  course,  gives  the  lie  to  the 
gratuitous  assumption  of  Tristran  that  the  lady 
was  enceinte  when  Antonine  married  her.  What 
amount  of  genuine  feeling  existed  between  Julia 
Paula  and  her  husband  we  cannot  even  surmise. 
From  a  psychological  point  of  view,  one  would  be 
inclined  to  predicate  very  little.  The  Emperor 
was  too  much  wedded  to  his  friends,  was  too 
feminine   in    character    to   appreciate   a   wife,   other 

2o8  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

than,  as  Lampridius  says,  "  a  strumpet  who  could 
increase  his  knowledge  of  her  art."  The  family 
of  Julius  Paulus  rose  to  the  height  of  power  as 
soon  as  a  daughter  of  his  house  became  Empress. 
Lampridius  is  not  by  any  means  definite  as  to 
the  date  of  Julius  Paulus'  domination  in  the  state  ; 
though  it  seems  natural  to  suppose  that,  when 
Eutychianus  Comazon  vacated  the  Praefectship  of 
the  Praetorium  in  order  to  become  Praefect  of 
Rome  (July  219),  the  Emperor's  father-in-law  was 
appointed  in  his  room,  and  vacated  this  office  either 
at  the  time  of  his  daughter's  divorce,  or  more  pro- 
bably at  an  earlier  date,  i.e.  when  his  official  year 
expired  in  July  220. 

The  precise  date  of  the  divorce  is  unknown.  As 
we  have  said,  there  are  coins  struck  at  Alexandria 
with  Julia's  effigy  and  inscription,  after  29th  August 
220,  and  others  at  Tripolis  in  Phoenicia,  after 
October  in  that  year.  The  most  likely  supposition 
is  that  Antonine  divorced  her  somewhere  in  the 
beginning  of  221,  after  he  had  made  up  his  mind  to 
take  to  wife  the  Vestal,  Aquilia  Severa,  in  accord- 
ance with  his  religious  scheme  or  ideal. 

Julia  Cornelia  Paula  is  the  only  wife  of  Antonine 
mentioned  in  inscriptions,  and,  as  we  hear  nothing 
of  her  in  any  other  way,  it  is  improbable  that  she 
had  much  importance  at  Court.  Possibly  she  was 
found  to  be  of  no  use  either  to  Antonine,  Maesa, 
Soaemias,  or  Mamaea,  each  in  their  separate  ways, 
and  as  such  was  relegated  to  unimportant  obscurity, 
neglected  as  a  cypher.  Her  coin  types  are  equally 
unimportant.    They  make  reference  to  the  Concordia 


which  was  supposed  to  exist  between  the  pair, 
and  introduce  the  deities  protective  of  matrimony. 
Her  portraits  vary  from  those  of  a  woman  of  sixty 
odd  years  to  the  representation  of  a  woman  about 
thirty  years  old,  which  latter  age  is  almost  confirmed 
by  her  so-called  bust  in  the  Borghese  collection  at 
the  Louvre  ;  but  no  known  author  can  really  do 
more  than  guess  at  what  this  lady  was  as  careful 
to  conceal  as  her  less  fortunate  sisters. 

Lampridius  tries  to  leave  one  with  the  impression, 
that  on  the  divorce  of  this  Augusta  (the  Senate  had 
accorded  the  title  at  the  time  of  the  marriage)  Julius 
Paulus  was  banished.  Unfortunately,  he  mentions 
him  a  little  later  on  as  being  tutor  to  Alexander  (in 
the  beginning  of  the  year  222).  The  inference  is, 
of  course,  that  Lampridius  took  the  two  impressions 
from  conflicting  sources.  In  all  probability  the 
great  jurisconsult,  having  exchanged  his  position  as 
Praefect  of  the  Praetorium  for  a  Court  sinecure  as 
Alexander's  tutor,  did  not  re-emerge  into  public  life 
until  his  thick-headed  pupil  was  safely  seated  on  the 
throne.  Quite  what  office  he  then  occupied  Pauly 
has  not  determined.  It  may  have  been  once  again 
the  Praefecture  of  the  Praetorium,  a  position  second 
only  to  that  of  the  Emperor  himself,  and  one  which 
carried  with  it  practical  sovereignty,  in  the  Tudor 
sense,  only  excepting  the  one  element  which  went  to 
solidify  Elizabethan  greatness,  the  assumption  of  the 
powers,  dignities,  and  privileges  of  the  ecclesiastical 

Julia  Cornelia  Paula,  shorn  of  her  title  and 
position  some  time  during  the   winter  of  220-221, 


retired  into  opulent  privacy.     No  sane  person  would, 
at  that  time,  have  pitied  Julia's  lot,  unless  it  were 
because  she  was  no  longer  enjoying  the  position  of 
Empress.     Even  in  mediaeval  times,  when  divorce 
was  an  ecclesiastical  privilege,  and  in  consequence 
most  costly,  it  was  not  regarded  as  an  unmixed  evil. 
Of  course,  it  was  rare,  and,  being  ecclesiastical,  carried 
a  certain  stigma  with  it.     Furthermore,  as  we  have 
said,  it  was  a  privilege  for  which  there  was  not  the  same 
need  as  in  times  of  women's  greater  freedom.     No 
one  who,  like  the  mediaeval  husband,  had  canonical 
permission    to    beat    his    wife    when    she    annoyed 
him,   stood   in    vital    need   of  dissolving   the   bond, 
{vide  Beaumanoir,  Ivii.  :  "  Tout  mari  peut  battre  sa 
femme  pourvu  que  ce  soit  moder^ment,  et  sans  que 
mort  s'ensuive  ").      During  the  epoch  in  question,  it 
was  the  most  usual  and  ordinary  circumstance  of  daily 
life.      It  was  continued  interest  in,  not  satiety  with, 
the    charms    of  your    spouse    that    created    wonder 
in  old  Rome  ;  suffice  it  to  say,  that  Julia  retired,   a 
woman  with  a  past,  and  the  knowledge,  that  if  she  had 
her  wits  about  her,  there  was  a  considerable  future  to 
look  forward  to.     No  one  expressed   regret  at  her 
going,  so  in  all  probability  Maesa  was  agreeable, 
though  we  can  scarcely  think  that  the  old  lady  knew 
of  the  scheme  which  her  grandson  was  concocting 
when  she  allowed  the  mistake  to  be  made  without 
an   effort   to    stop  his  headlong  swoop  to  ruin ;    a 
flight  which  would  certainly  involve  the  whole  family 
on  its  way,  unless  they  could  dissociate   themselves 
from  the  new  religious  policy  which  dictated  it. 

Probably  along  with  predilection  Antonine  had 



seen  and  admired  a  lady,  whom  Dion  describes,  or 
makes  Antonine  describe,  as  Chief  Priestess  of 
Vesta.  With  this  designation  Preuner  emphatically 
disagrees,  accounting  for  the  apxiipeia  on  the  grounds 
that  she  officiated  in  the  chief  worship  of  Rome,  not 
that  she  herself  was  the  chief  priestess.  It  was  in 
the  early  months  of  the  year  221  that  Antonine, 
having  seconded  Julia  Paula,  took  from  her  nunnery 
the  Vestal  Aquilia  Severa,  thereby  thoroughly  shock- 
ing the  susceptible.  We  have  already  discussed 
the  reasons  for  this  act  of  folly.  From  a  religious 
point  of  view  there  was  much  to  be  said  by  the 
Emperor,  and  undoubtedly  he  said  it.  From  an 
aesthetic  standpoint  it  was  a  mistake.  There  are 
still  in  existence  a  certain  number  of  coins  and 
medals  which  bear  her  effigy  ;  these  give  her  the 
appearance  of  a  sinister  and  rather  evil -looking 
woman,  utterly  unlike  the  helpless  Neophyte,  young 
and  beautiful,  whom  various  writers  have  depicted 
in  their  efforts  to  excite  our  pity  for  the  poor  nun 
forcibly  ravished  by  an  unattractive  and  debauched 

The  whole  modern  opinion  of  the  community 
of  Vesta  is  founded  on  a  mistaken  view  of  their 
position  and  usefulness.  Our  ideas  of  Vestals 
are  largely  derived  from  the  conceptions  which 
Egyptian  anchorites  bequeathed  to  the  esoteric  reli- 
gious communities  which  Hourished  during  the  middle 
ages.  The  truth  lies  in  the  fact  that  the  Roman 
Vestals  have  but  one  point  of  contact  with  the 
successors  of  the  anchorites,  namely,  their  reputa- 
tion for  chastity,  which  was,    however,  grafted   on 

212  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

to  an  entirely  different  religious  foundation.  The 
Vestals  were  a  community  of  high-born  Roman 
ladies,  whose  duty  it  was  to  tend  and  preserve  the 
sacred  tire  vvhich  symbolised  Rome's  existence,  and, 
while  they  worshipped  the  Phallus,  to  keep  them- 
selves unspotted  from  the  world,  not  otherwise  from 
its  contact.  In  the  performance  of  their  public 
functions  they  were  admirable  and  most  punctilious, 
but  they  were  not  cloistered  virgins,  as  we  know  the 
race  to-day.  They  were  women  of  the  world,  with  a 
value  enhanced  by  an  often  (according  to  Suetonius) 
supposititious  virginity ;  women  who,  clad  in  the 
white  linen  garments  of  a  blameless  life,  their  hair 
arranged  in  the  six  braids  which  symbolised  chastity, 
were  the  chief  figures  at  all  public  functions,  the 
leaders  of  feeling  at  the  games  and  gladiatorial 
shows,  and  the  arbiters  of  public  opinion  in  all 
that  touched  religion  and  morals,  at  a  time  when 
religion  and  morals  meant  courage,  bravery,  patriot- 
ism, and  hardihood. 

It  would  be  as  absurd  to  impute  to  these  women 
Christian  ideas  of  religion  and  morals  as  it  would 
be  to  transfer  the  same  neuroticism  to  the  Spartan 
communities  of  a  still  earlier  age.  The  ideal  was 
not  then  suffering  for  suffering's  sake,  not  even 
suffering  to  appease  an  offended  deity,  but  suffering 
for  the  sake  of  virility,  patriotism,  and  strength. 

As  we  have  said,  Roman  religion  was  in  the 
third  century  what  it  always  had  been,  purely  politi- 
cal. It  was  the  prosperity  of  the  Empire,  its  peace 
and  immortality,  for  which  sacrifices  were  made ;  with 
the  individual,  his  happiness  and  prosperity,  it  con- 



cerned  itself  not  at  all.  The  antique  virtues  were 
civic,  not  personal.  It  was  the  State  which  had  a 
soul,  not  the  individual,  Man  was  ephemeral.  It 
was  the  nation  that  endured,  and  to  secure  that 
permanence  each  citizen  laboured.  As  for  the 
citizen,  death  was  near,  and  so  he  hastened  to  live  ; 
before  the  roses  could  fade,  he  wreathed  himself  with 
them ;  immortality  was,  for  him,  in  his  descendants, 
the  continuation  of  his  name,  the  respect  for  his 
ashes.  Any  other  form  of  futurity  was  a  specula- 
tion. In  anterior  epochs,  fright  had  peopled  Tar- 
tarus, but  fright  had  gone  ;  the  Elysian  fields  were 
too  vague,  too  wearisome  to  contemplate.  "After 
death,"  said  Cicero,  "there  is  nothing";  and  philo- 
sophy agreed  with  him.  Of  such  and  kindred 
religious  theories  the  Roman  statesmanship — realis- 
ing the  danger  of  independent  religions — had 
constituted  her  Emperor  supreme  governor.  As 
Pontifex  Maximus  he  held  much  the  same  position 
as  that  which  our  Tudor  Sovereigns  created  for 
themselves  as  heads  of  the  Church  in  England. 
The  Emperor  was  supreme  over  religious  dogma 
and  practice,  whenever  occasion  necessitated  control. 
The  old  faiths  were  crumbling,  but  none  the  less 
Rome  was  the  abridgment  of  every  superstition. 
The  Gods  of  the  conquered  had  always  formed  part 
of  her  spoils ;  to  please  them  was  easy — from 
Jehovah  to  the  unknown  Gods  beyond  the  Rhine 
their  worship  was  gore.  That  the  upper  classes 
had  no  faith  goes  without  saying,  but  of  the  philoso- 
phical atheism  of  the  upper  classes  the  people  knew 
nothing  ;  they  clung  piously  to  a  faith  which  had  a 

214  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

theological  justification  for  every  sin  ;  and  turned 
with  equal  avidity  to  the  Mithraic,  Egyptian,  and 
even  to  the  Nazarene  religion  with  which  Constan- 
tine  finally  replaced  the  ancient  worship,  as  long  as 
they  were  all  the  same  thing  under  a  different  name  ; 
the  religion  of  the  Empire  with  local  or  foreign 
mysteries  thrown  in  ;  the  accustomed  traditions, 
miracles,  feasts,  and  nature  worship,  unfortunately, 
as  men  found  after  Constantine,  grown  contentious 
and  continually  more  expensive  to  maintain. 

The  Vestals  were  still  the  guardians  and  types 
of  the  older  theories  they  professed  ;  they  were  the 
link  between  philosophy  and  superstition,  and  as  such 
they  played  their  part  admirably  :  in  private  much 
the  same  as  other  women,  in  public  exact.  Occasion- 
ally there  was  a  public  scandal,  but  very  rarely. 
Domitian  had  recalled  the  archaic  law  and  had 
buried  one  defaulter  alive.  Claudius,  referring  to 
Messalina,  had  told  them  that  the  fate  which  made 
him  the  husband  of  impure  women  had  destined  him 
to  punish  such.  The  lady  whom  Caracalla  buried 
alive  protested,  not  against  the  imputation  of  a 
broken  vow,  but  because  the  vow  had  not  been 
broken  satisfactorily  enough  for  her  liking. 

Apparently  Antonine  was  quite  without  Roman 
prejudice  in  this,  or  indeed  in  any  other  matter. 
He  liked  the  lady ;  whether  from  a  religious  or  an 
aesthetic  point  of  view  is  uncertain.  If  it  were  the 
latter,  and  her  portraits  do  her  justice,  Antonine's 
reputation  as  a  judge  of  female  beauty  is  irretrievably 
gone.  She  was  frankly  old  and  ugly.  Nevertheless 
he  wanted  to  marry  her,  and  what  he  wanted  he  usually 



got.  Whether  or  not  Aquilia  Severa  wanted  him 
is  unknown,  at  any  rate  she  was  perfectly  willing  to 
exchange  supposititious  virginity  for  the  imperial 
marriage  bed  on  more  than  one  occasion.  Rome, 
as  we  have  pointed  out,  was  shocked,  frankly  dis- 
gusted. The  Emperor  had  the  report,  probably 
through  the  Senate,  and  thereupon  pointed  out  to 
that  august  body  the  essential  piety  of  the  proceed- 
ing :  a  Vestal  and  the  Chief  Priest  of  the  Holy  God 
were  bound  to  produce  children  entirely  divine. 

It  was  a  veritably  Tudor  argument,  than  which 
nothing  more  specious,  for  the  allaying  of  prejudice, 
could  have  been  produced  by  Henry,  the  Eighth  of 
that  name.  Unfortunately,  Rome  in  the  third 
century  enjoyed  considerably  more  of  that  Tory 
virtue,  and  was  less  bored  with  a  religion  which 
affected  no  one  personally,  than  England  was  in 
the  sixteenth  century.  Rome  continued  to  object 
to  the  Emperor  shocking  her  prejudices.  England 
changed  her  mind,  and  with  it  her  prejudices,  at  the 
bidding  of  her  sovereigns,  and,  sacerdotal  extermin- 
ation aiding,  she  forgot  in  a  generation  what  it  had 
taken  her  a  thousand  years  to  learn. 

Needless  to  say,  this  union  of  the  Emperor  was 
productive  of  nothing  either  human  or  divine,  con- 
cerning which,  or  as  a  sort  of  mild  reflection  there- 
upon, Lampridius  utters  his  psychologically  illumin- 
ating remark  concerning  the  use  this  Emperor  had 
for  wives  and  women  generally. 

The  history  of  Severa's  family  is  obscure.  Her 
father  was  the  notable  jurist  Aquilius  Sabinus,  who 
had  been  Praefect  of  Rome  both   in    214  and  216. 

2i6  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

He  was  the  firm  friend  of  Sillus  Messala,  the  king- 
maker, and  possibly  as  a  Senator,  was  one  of  that 
gentleman's  judges  when  he  was  condemned  for 
treason  against  his  sovereign.  We  hear  further  of  a 
son,  one  Fabius  Sabinus,  who,  on  account  of  his 
wisdom  and  learning,  has  come  down  to  history  as 
the  Cato  of  his  age.  The  daughter  must  have  par- 
taken of  the  family  ability.  Her  father's  senatorial 
rank  would,  in  all  probability,  have  opened  to  her 
the  doors  of  that  most  exclusive  of  corporations  to 
which  she  belonged,  but  his  position  could  scarcely 
have  raised  her  eyes  to  the  imperial  purple. 

We  can  form  no  absolute  judgment  from  the 
records  at  our  disposal,  as  to  the  precise  date  at 
which  this  lady  exchanged  the  practices  of  open 
celibacy  for  those  of  problematical  matrimony.  The 
most  likely  suggestion  is  that  it  was  early  in  the 
spring  of  the  year  221,  at  a  time  contemporaneous 
with  the  alliance  celebrated  between  Elagabal  and 
Minerva.  The  Alexandrian  coins  bearing  her 
name  are  dated  JA,  or  subsequent  to  29th  August 
220,  while  the  coins  "  Aequitas  Publica  " — which 
also  bear  her  name — were  issued  early  in  221, 
obviously  for  the  third  distribution  of  money  which 
was  held  in  honour  of  the  double  marriage.  No 
games  or  excitements  such  as  celebrated  Antonine's 
first  alliance  were  at  this  time  attempted ;  the 
Emperor  had  quite  enough  to  do  in  allaying  the 
trouble  caused  by  the  marriage  itself,  and  in  con- 
sidering projects  for  the  furthering  of  his  religious 
schemes.  Of  the  lady's  position  and  influence  we 
know  nothing,  though  we  can  quite  believe  that  she 

Coin  of  Julia  Cornelia  Paula  Augusta  (British  Museum). 

Coin  of  lulia  Cornelia  Paula  Augusta,  A.D.  220-21  (British  Museum). 

Coin  of  Julia  Aquilia  Scvera  Augusta,  A.n.  220-21  1  British  Museum). 

Coin  of  Annia  Faustina  .\ugusta,  .\.n.  221-22  (British  Museum). 

Coin  of  Julia  .\quilia  Severa  .\ugusta,  .\.n.  221-22  (British  Museum). 

/•■<«i  <•/•»<•«■  3 1  ft. 


was  no  friend  of  the  elderly  Maesa,  or  the  cross- 
grained  mother  of  Alexianu^,  both  of  whoni  wished 
her  so  ill.  Serviez  is  by  no  means  complimentary 
to  Severa,  on  account  of  the  avidity  with  which  she 
changed  her  position.  He  calls  her  ambition  un- 
bounded, though  it  is  very  doubtful  whether,  placed 
in  a  similar  position,  any  one  of  us  would  have 
refused  the  flattery,  and  undoubted  compliment 
made  to  our  superlative  worth. 

The  title  of  Augusta,  of  which  Julia  Cornelia 
Paula  had  been  relieved,  was  conferred  on  Aquilia, 
and  doubtless  the  Emperor  looked  forward  to  some 
considerable  degree  of  felicity  in  the  company  of  a 
woman  of  whose  marriage  every  one  disapproved. 

As  we  know,  Antonine  found  out  quite  soon  that 
he  had  made  a  vital  mistake  ;  that  he  had  attacked 
the  one  superstition  that  Rome  would  not  allow  to 
be  touched,  and,  with  extreme  reluctance,  he  sent 
both  the  Goddess  and  her  Vestal  back  to  their  appro- 
priate dwellings.  Antonine  has  been  censured 
right  royally  both  for  his  marriage  and  for  the  con- 
sequent divorce.  Now,  if  the  marriage  were  wrong, 
as  all  the  authors  say,  surely  the  divorce  was  right ; 
certainly  Rome  thought  so,  since  his  compliance 
with  national  wishes  seems  to  have  won  men  over, 
and  appeased  their  minds,  thus  restoring  the  Em- 
peror to  his  popularity.  Why  then  did  he  further 
alienate  them  by  remarrying  Severa  in  the  early 
part  of  the  next  year,  as  Dion  and  the  coins  relate  ? 
It  is  a  mystery. 

Antonine  does  not  seem  to  have  done  anything 
at  all  for  the  family  of  this  wife ;  there  is  no  record 

2i8  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

of  any  offices  held  by  them,  or  official  appoint- 
ments given,  taken,  or  received  by  men  of  their 
name.  Of  course,  they  may  have  got  jobs  which 
came  under  the  generic  term  of  "appointment  of 
unfit  persons  "  ;  if  so,  we  have  no  record  of  what 
they  got,  while  the  duration  of  the  marriage  was  so 
abbreviated  that  there  was  scarcely  time  for  any 
scandal  to  develop.  The  date  of  the  divorce,  like 
all  the  dates  of  the  reign,  can  only  be  fixed  approxi- 
mately. It  was  not  before  the  early  spring  and  not 
later  than  the  end  of  June,  by  which  time  Julia 
Maesa  had  regained  her  power  (what  she  had  of  it) 
over  the  mind  of  Antonine,  that  she  persuaded  him 
to  return  both  Minerva  and  her  personification  to 
their  respective  homes,  to  send  for  Astarte,  for 
Elagabal,  to  marry  Annia  Faustina  himself,  and, 
above  all,  to  adopt  Alexianus ;  which  latter  ceremony 
took  place  some  time  before  loth  July  221.  We 
can  well  imagine  the  boy's  disgust  at  the  failure  of 
his  plans  and  at  the  early  loss  of  a  friend  in  Aquilia, 
who,  as  both  Dion  and  Herodian  tell  us,  was 
Empress  for  only  a  little  time. 

One  of  the  greatest  obstacles  which  the  imperial 
family  had  m^et  with  was  their  lack  of  connection 
with  the  Roman  nobility.  No  doubt  this  could 
easily  have  been  remedied.  Maesa  might  have 
tried  to  make  her  first  alliance  in  this  direction  ;  she 
seems  to  have  imagined,  however,  that  such  persons 
were  extinct.  They  had  died  twice,  we  are  told, 
at  Pharsalus  and  Philippi,  and  those  who  had  not 
died  then  had  suffered  for  real  or  imaginary  crimes 
under  succeeding  Emperors.     The  absolutely  neces- 

vTii  WIVES  OF  THE   EMPEROR  219 

sary  step,  therefore,  which  Maesa  had  to  take  in 
this  policy  of  alliance  was  to  find  the  most  influen- 
tial marriageable  woman  in  Rome  and  put  her  into 
the  place  that  Aquilia  Severa  was  holding  to  the 
jeopardy  of  all  concerned.  The  lady  appeared  as  if 
by  a  miracle.  Amongst  other  persons  who  dis- 
approved of  Antonine's  proceedings  were  the  two 
Senators  Silius  Messala  and  Pomponius  Bassus,  of 
whom  mention  has  already  been  made,  as  having  been 
concerned  in  a  plot  for  dethroning  the  E  mperor.  Both 
had  been  men  of  importance  for  years.  Pomponius 
Bassus  had  been  Consul  under  Septimius  Severus 
and  Governor  of  Mysia  under  Caracalla.  In  fact, 
so  important  were  they  in  their  own  estimation, 
that  nothing  set  bounds  to  their  ambition.  Already 
between  them  they  had  contrived  the  deposition  of 
the  Emperor  Julianus,  and  the  election  of  Septimius, 
and,  like  the  great  Earl  of  Warwick  of  fifteenth- 
century  fame,  they  were  by  no  means  averse  to 
putting  their  heads  together  once  again,  in  order  to 
rid  the  state  of  whomsoever  they  thought  incapax 

Now,  this  was  just  the  work  that  Mamaea 
wanted.  For  other  reasons,  Maesa  was  not  averse 
to  the  plot.  The  gentlemen  held  a  secret  court  to 
examine  into  the  Emperor's  actions,  and  presum- 
ably they  found  him  incapax,  so  set  to  work  to 
corrupt  the  guards  in  the  usual  fashion. 

Unfortunately  for  Antonine,  that  infamous  system 
of  informers  which  had  flourished  and  been  of  such 
vital  use  under  former  Emperors  (under  his  father 
Caracalla,   to  go   no   further  back   for  an  example) 


was  considered  by  his  own  government  as  harsh  and 
objectionable,  an  utterly  intolerable  practice  in  a  good 
and  settled  state.  Antonine  had,  therefore,  refused 
to  allow  delators  to  assist  the  government.  This 
being  the  case,  he  ought  to  have  apprehended  all 
known  traitors  himself.  Messala  and  Bassus  were 
known  for  such ;  they  had  always  been  dangerous 
persons.  Nevertheless,  Antonine  left  them  at  large. 
True,  as  Lampridius  tells  us,  he  did  send  for  Silius 
Messala  and  probably  also  Pomponius  Bassus  to 
come  to  him  at  Nicomedia,  because  he  considered  it 
safer  to  keep  these  gentlemen  with  him  in  the  East 
than  to  allov/  their  tongues  to  wag  freely  in  Rome, 
before  such  time  as  he  had  dictated  his  own  terms 
of  government  to  the  Senate  and  people.  When 
they  returned  to  Rome,  these  men  obviously 
plotted  freely  in  the  accustomed  way  until  they 
approached  too  many  soldiers,  after  which  time 
they  were  condemned  by  the  Senate,  and  sent 
to  other  spheres  of  usefulness,  or,  as  they  themselves 
would  have  put  it,  to  an  endless  nothingness, 
where  an  absence  of  all  energy  could  do  neither 
good  nor  evil.  It  is  quite  impossible  to  fix  the 
exact  date  of  this  execution.  There  is  a  tendency  to 
assign  it  to  the  early  part  of  the  reign,  i.e.,  about 
the  beginning  of  the  year  219,  whilst  the  Court 
resided  at  Nicomedia;  this,  on  the  very  frail 
evidence  that  their  names  appear  amongst  Dion's 
list  of  those  who  were  executed  during  the  reign, 
which  list  was  published  amongst  the  acts  of  the  first 
winter.  No  cause  has  been  shown,  however,  for 
any  plot  to  dethrone  and  murder  the  Emperor  at 


that  date ;  indeed,  until  the  religious  mistake  in 
221,  any  such  plot  would  have  been  utterly 
impossible,  though  there  is  plenty  of  evidence 
concerning  the  various  attempts  of  the  years  221 
and  222,  of  which  almost  certainly  this  conspiracy 
was  one.  The  execution  was  obviously  connected, 
in  Dion's  mind,  with  Antonine's  third  marriage. 
He  says  that  the  real  reason,  as  every  one  knew, 
was  because  the  Emperor  wanted  to  play  David 
to  Bassus'  Uriah,  with  Annia  Faustina  taking  the 
hackneyed  part  of  Bathsheba. 

But  it  is  a  stupid  story.  Antonine  was  married 
to  a  woman  of  his  own  choosing,  and  certainly  did 
not  want  the  friend  of  his  grandmother,  even  though 
to  please  that  relation  he  did  take  Annia  almost  as 
soon  as  her  husband  was  dead.  This  is  again  the 
only  possible  explanation  of  Dion's  phrase  that 
"  This  inhuman  monster  (i.e.  Antonine)  would  not 
allow  Annia  Faustina  to  spoil  her  beauty  by  weep- 
ing for  her  departed  husband,"  a  story  either  adapted 
from  the  similar  lie  related  of  Caracalla  and  his 
mother,  or  designed  to  do  honour  to  the  work  of  the 
unconscionable  traitor  Pomponius.  it  is  quite 
true  that  Maesa  found  ample  means  of  drying  any 
tears  that  the  usual  decencies  extracted  from  the 
Lady  Annia ;  but,  as  things  turned  out,  no  one 
seemed  more  anxious  than  this  scion  of  the  imperial 
house  of  Commodus  to  marry  the  present  Antonine, 
despite  all  his  relations'  epithets,  and,  through  these, 
what  later  commentators  have  found  to  say  against 

the  boy. 

Annia  Faustina  was  the  onlv  wife  of  Antonine 

222  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

who  did  not  assume  the  title  of  Julia ;  this, 
presumably,  because  she  was  the  only  lady  who 
had  a  name  of  her  own  by  birth.  Her  gene- 
alogy is  obscure,  at  least  on  her  mother's 
side.  Everybody  is  agreed  that  she  was  great- 
granddaughter  of  the  Emperor  Marcus  Aurelius 
through  his  fourth  daughter  Arria  Fadilla.  This 
lady  m.arried  a  certain  Cn.  Claudius  Severus, 
whose  son  Ti.  Claudius  Severus  was  Annia's 
father.  Authorities  disagree  as  to  the  wife  of 
Titus.  Pauly  does  not  mention  any  marriage, 
presumably  on  the  grounds  that  all  are  conjectural ; 
Ramsay,  from  an  inscription  found  in  Phrygia, 
postulates  that  he  married  a  second  cousin,  one 
of  the  Cornificia  family.  Tristran  asserts  that  it 
was  yet  another  cousin,  Aurelia  Sabina,  Eckhel's 
genealogy  is  too  obscure  to  be  of  much  use,  though 
he  also  traces  the  descent  of  Titus'  wife  to  Lucilla, 
yet  another  relation.  The  main  contention  is, 
however,  the  same  in  all  cases  :  Annia  was  descended 
on  both  sides  from  the  imperial  house  of  Commodus, 
unless  the  amours  of  the  younger  wife  of  the  Emperor 
Marcus  Aurelius  made  it  more  probable  that  some 
lusty  soldier  or  gladiator,  rather  than  her  philo- 
sophical husband,  had  been  responsible  for  the 
accidents  of  her  children's  birth.  Be  that  as  it  may, 
Arria  Fadilla  had  passed  with  the  rest  of  the  family 
as  an  imperial  child,  and  her  descendants  enjoyed 
her  worship  and  renown. 

As  usual,  we  are  told  that  Annia  was  young  and 
beautiful,  neither  of  which  statements  is  borne  out 
by  the  coins  extant ;  to  judge  from  these  one  would 



postulate  that  she  was  between  forty  and  forty- 
five  years  of  age  at  the  time  of  her  marriage  with 
Antonine,  Eckhel  states  definitely  that  she  was 
thirty-eight  years  old  at  that  period.  Pauly  ventures 
on  neither  the  date  oi'  her  birth  nor  death.  It  is, 
therefore,  most  unwise  to  assert,  as  the  biographers 
do,  what  neither  portraits  nor  authorities  will  in 
any  way  corroborate. 

As  with  her  age,  so  with  her  life  :  Annia's  words, 
deeds  and  political  aspirations  are  quite  unknown 
to  us.  Obviously,  coming  at  the  political  juncture  of 
Antonine's  mistake,  and  bringing  the  alliance  with 
the  old  nobility  that  Maesa  wanted  by  way  of 
support,  Annia  was  the  friend  of  the  Alexander 
party  in  the  state.  As  such,  she  must  have  been  an 
extraordinary  annoyance  to  the  Emperor  and  his 
friends.  Certainly,  from  Lampridius'  accounts,  the 
boy-husband  was  moody,  distrustful,  and  generally 
miserable  during  the  whole  of  this  period,  which 
does  not  presuppose  connubial  felicity. 

There  is  no  mention  of  Annia  having  taken  any 
special  part  either  for  or  against  her  husband  in  the 
network  of  treasonable  attempts  which  his  family  were 
continually  trying.  We  do  not  even  know  how  the 
marriage  was  dissolved.  The  natural  presumption  is 
that  he  divorced  Annia,  as  he  had  divorced  Cornelia 
and  Aquilia,  though  it  is  allowable  in  the  absence  of 
the  usual  gibe  at  his  inconstancy,  or  any  suggestion  of 
foul  play,  to  suppose  that  she  died — allowable,  but  not 
very  probable.  Antonine  obviously  took  her  as  part 
of  his  grandmother's  scheme,  and  got  rid  of  her 
when  he  tried  to  get  rid  of  Alexander,  by  repudiat- 

224  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

ing  the  adoption.  Dion  relates  that  he  then  took 
two  nameless  women  to  wife,  finally  returning  to 
Aquilia  Severa,  The  first  part  of  the  statement  is 
obviously  a  fiction.  All  Antonine,  or  any  one  of  his 
temperament,  wanted  from  a  wife  was  friendship  and 
affection ;  this  he  certainly  had  in  Aquilia,  whom  he 
only  divorced  as  a  precautionary  measure,  and 
whom  he  certainly  took  back  just  as  soon  as  he 
could  get  rid  of  Annia. 

Of  course,  to  divorce  Annia,  a  really  important 
imperial  lady,  was  a  disagreeable  step ;  it  would 
alienate  the  whole  of  the  upper  classes,  unless  he 
could  show  reason  for  the  change.  Annia,  by  the 
extreme  eagerness  with  which  she  had  jumped  at 
the  chance  of  being  Empress,  was  certainly  not 
going  to  be  party  to  the  divorce — not  that  her  con- 
sent was  necessary  in  such  times  of  freedom,  when 
divorce  was  of  daily  occurrence,  even  in  the  best- 
regulated  families.  Cicero  divorced  his  wife,  we  are 
told,  because  she  did  not  idolise  him  ;  Caesar  his,  on 
the  pretext  that  she  ought  to  be  above  suspicion. 
Certainly  no  actual  misconduct  was  necessary,  unless 
the  whim  of  the  moment  be  regarded  as  such. 
Antonine  exercised  this  right  to  act  on  his  whim,  or 
rather  on  his  knowledge  that  the  lady  was  an  unneces- 
sary burden,  but  it  cost  him  dear,  the  lady  was 
not  born  to  take  such  snubs  in  a  chastened  spirit, 
even  if  her  imperial  relations  liked  to  adopt  that 
attitude,  which  is,  to  say  the  least  of  it,  an  unlikely 

The  odd  ladies  may  be  ignored.  Dion  says  they 
were    wives,    not    concubines.       But    time    did    not 


permit  of  so  many  weddings  and  divorces  ;  while  the 
Emperor's  inclination,  continually  veering  back  to 
Aqiiilia,  would  not  have  let  him  try  so  many  others. 
Dion  tells  us  that  Antonine  remarried  this  Vestal 
before  the  last  and  fatal  plot  was  set  on  foot ;  a 
statement  which  is  corroborated  by  certain  Alexan- 
drian coins  struck  after  29th  August  221.  It  was 
a  proceeding,  as  far  as  we  can  judge,  more  mad  than 
his  first  mistake.  Admitting  that  Antonine  knew 
that  his  first  error,  in  taking  the  nun  to  wife,  had 
angered  the  people,  it  is  impossible  for  us  to  imagine 
why  he  took  her  again,  thus  once  more  upsetting 
the  city.  It  was  the  most  unaccountable  blunder, 
and  one  which  would  finally  alienate  those  whom  he 
had  so  lately  tried  to  propitiate.  There  may  have 
been  goodness  in  the  act,  kindness  towards  the 
woman,  who  had  given  up  so  much  for  his  sake. 
There  is  goodness  everywhere,  often  the  basis  of 
evil  is  in  that  virtue  ;  certainly  much  madness  may 
be  traced  to  it. 

In  reading  the  account  of  this  epoch,  one  feels  as 
though  one  were  assisting  at  the  spectacle  of  a 
gigantic  asylum  where  the  inmates  were  omnipotent. 
From  this  disease  of  madness  Rome  might  have 
recovered,  had  not  her  delirium,  which  was  fine, 
turned  to  softening  of  the  brain.  Until  a  century 
later,  there  was  hope,  because  the  guilt  was 
conscious  ;  it  was  only  when  guilt  became  ignorance, 
that  Rome  disappeared. 




"  I  WOULD  never  have  written  the  life  of  Antoninus 
Impurissimus,"  said  Lampridius,  "were  it  not  that 
he  had  predecessors."  Even  in  Latin  the  task  was 
difficult.  In  English  it  would  be  impossible,  at  least 
Lampridius'  life.  There  are  subjects  that  permit  of 
a  hint,  particularly  if  it  be  masked  to  the  teeth,  but 
there  are  others  that  no  art  can  drape,  not  even  the 
free  use  of  Latin  substantives.  Our  task  therefore 
is  to  deal,  rather  with  their  sins  of  omission,  than 
with  the  biographers'  offences  against  all  canons  of 
good  taste  in  recording  the  inexpressible.  In  his  work 
on  the  Caesars,  Suetonius  displayed  the  eccentricities 
simply,  without  adding  any  descriptive  placards  ; 
therein  lay  Suetonius'  advantage  ;  he  was  able  to 
describe  ;  nowadays  a  writer  may  not,  at  least  not 
the  character  we  possess  of  Elagabalus.  It  is  not 
that  he  was  depraved,  for  all  his  house  was  ;  it  is,  that, 
like   many  moderns,   he  made  depravity  a  pursuit, 

and  the  aegis  of  the  purple  has  carried  the  stories 


228  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

beyond  the  limits  of  the  imaginable,  let  alone 
beyond  the  limits  of  the  real.  Were  we  to  accept 
unexamined,  the  testimony  of  his  traducers  of  the 
Christian  era,  we  would  gather  that  "at  the  feet  of 
that  painted  boy  Elephantis  and  Parrhasius  could 
have  sat  and  learned  a  lesson,"  that  "apart  from 
that  phase  of  his  sovereignty,  he  was  a  little  Sar- 
danapalus,  an  Asiatic  Mignon,  who  found  himself 
great."  Of  course  it  would  have  been  curious  to 
see  him  in  that  wonderful  palace,  clothed  like  a 
Persian  queen,  insisting  that  he  should  be  addressed 
as  imperatrix,  and  quite  living  up  to  the  title.  It 
would  not  only  have  been  interesting,  it  would  have 
given  one  an  insight  into  how  much  Rome  saw  and 
how  much  she  could  stand. 

Lampridius  himself  drew  breath  once,  to  remark 
that  he  could  not  vouch  for  the  truth  of  the  stories 
he  was  committing  to  paper,  but  he  was  employed 
to  show  the  contrast  between   Constantine's   "exe- 
crable  superstition,"   as   Tacitus    describes    it,    and 
those  of  the  ancient  world,  so  went   on   to   record 
things  even  more  impossible.      Perhaps  his  remark 
was  unnecessary.       His  record  has  defeated  its  own 
end.       He    has    come    down    to    posterity    as    the 
biographer   whose  contradictory  collection  of  scan- 
dalous  enumerations   becomes     monotonous    rather 
than  amusing  as  he  gets  deeper  into  the  mire.      For 
'  ages   the   world    has    secretly    revelled    over    these 
records,  making  no  sort  of  effort  to  get  at  the  truth, 
perhaps  because,  in  secret,  men  like  to  believe  that 
their    predecessors    were    more    inhumanly    wicked 
than  they  are  themselves.      Not  that,  in  the  light  of 


modern  science,  any  physician  would  consider  Ela- 
gabalus  inhumanly  wicked,  any  more  than  he  would 
be  inclined  to  apply  the  term  to  a  man  born  blind, 
or  with  the  taint  of  leprosy  in  his  system  ;  in  fact 
even  wickedness  itself  has  been  described  as  "a 
myth  invented  by  good  people  to  account  for  the 
curious  attractiveness  of  those  whom  they  dislike." 
The  greater  part  of  the  dislike  which  men  have  ex- 
hibited towards  this  Emperor  and  his  faults  comes 
from  the  fact  that  he  was  psycho-sexually  abnormal, 
and  was  possessed  of  a  genius  for  the  aesthetic  and 
the  religious  that  his  historians  wished  to  decry.  He 
was  evidently  abnormal,  even  in  an  age  that  pro- 
duced abnormalities  like  Nero,  Tiberius,  Comniodus, 
and  Hadrian  ;  further,  he  was  frankly  abnormal, 
and  to-day  we  know  better  than  to  be  frank  about 

Since  the  world  began,  no  one  has  been  wholly 
wicked,  no  one  wholly  good.  The  truth  about 
Elagabalus  must  lie  between  the  two  extremes, 
admitting,  however,  a  congenital  twist  towards  the 
evil  tendencies  of  his  age.  He  had  habits  which 
are  regarded  by  scientists  less  as  vices  than  as 
perversions,  but  which,  at  the  time,  were  accepted 
as  a  matter  of  course.  Men  were  then  regarded  as 
virtuous  when  they  were  brave,  when  they  were 
honest,  when  they  were  just;  and  this  boy  did, 
despite  his  hereditary  taint,  show  more  than  flashes 
of  these  virtues.  The  idea  of  using  the  expres- 
sion "  virtuous "  in  its  later  sense,  occurred,  if 
at  all,  in  jest  merely,  as  a  synonym  for  a  eunuch. 
It  was  the  matron   and   the  vestal  who  were   sup- 



posed   to   be   virtuous,  and   their  virtue  was   often 

The  ceremonies  connected  with  the  Phallus,  and 
those  observed  in  the  rituals  of  the  city  were  of  a 
nature  that  only  the  infirm  could  withstand.    Indeed, 
the   symbol   of  human   life   was  then   omnipresent, 
lamblichus,  the  philosopher,  has  much  to  say  on  the 
subject  ;    so   have    Arnobius   and    Lactantius.       If 
Juvenal,  Martial,  and  Petronius  are  more  reticent, 
it  is  because  they  are  not  Fathers  of  the  Church  nor 
yet  antiquarians.      The  symbol  was  on  the  coins, 
over  the  bakers'  ovens  ;  as  a  preservative  against 
envy  it  hung  from  the  necks  of  children  ;  the  vestals 
worshipped  it ;  at  weddings  it  was  used  in  a  manner 
which  need  not  be  described.      It  was  a  religious 
emblem,  and  as  such  formed  the  chief  symbol  in  the 
training  of  the  boy  who  was  now  ruler  of  the  world. 
By  birth  a  Syrian,  by  profession  High  Priest  of  the 
Sun,  whose  devotees  worshipped  the  Phallus  as  his 
symbol,  was  it   likely  that  he,   the  chief  exponent, 
should  remain  cold,  should  take  no  interest  in  what 
was  an  all-absorbing    topic?       Besides  which,   the 
family   was   corrupted  by  the   presence   of  a  living 
fire   in   their  veins,   engendered    by   the    perpetual 
heat  of  the  sun.     Consider  the  history  of  his  rela- 
tions, and  no  one  will  wonder  that  he  was  by  nature 
voluptuous.      But  it  was  not  his  voluptuousness  that 
the  world  objected  to;  it  was  the  abnormal  condition 
of  his  mind  ;  because  in  the  body  of  the  man  resided 
the  soul  with  all  the  natural  passions  of  a  woman. 
He  was  what  the  world   knew  as  a  Psycho-sexual 


In  form  he  was  attractive  and  exceedingly  grace- 
ful ;  his  hair,  which  was  very  fair,  glistened  like  gold 
in  the  sun  ;  he  was  slender  and  possessed  of  glorious 
blue  eyes,  which  in  turn  were  endowed  with  the 
power  of  attracting  all  beholders  to  his  worship  ;  and 
he  knew  his  power  over  men  ;  he  had  first  realised 
it  when  the  legionaries  (locked  to  the  temple  at 
Emesa  attracted  by  the  reports  of  this  Prince 
Charming.  He  was  then  just  at  the  age  of  inci- 
pient manhood,  and  his  woman's  instinct  taught  him, 
as  no  outside  force  could  have  done,  that  virility 
and  strength  were  the  finest  things  in  the  world  ; 
his  religion,  surroundings,  and  education  told  him 
nothing  about  the  restraint  of,  what  was  to  him,  a 
perfectly  natural,  perhaps  even  an  hereditary 
passion,  the  exercise  of  which  so  endeared  him 
to  the  soldiers  that  they  forthwith  placed  him  upon 
the  throne  of  the  world.  As  Emperor  he  had  every 
desire,  and  was  under  no  compulsion  to  abstain 
from  gratifying  the  craving  to  study  and  exag- 
gerate that  swift,  vivid,  violent  age,  when  what 
Mill  in  his  Essay  on  Liberty  desired  was  enjoyed 
by  the  Augustitudes,  "  There  was  no  check  on 
the  growth  of  personality,  no  grinding  down  of 
men  to  meet  the  average."  Not  that  any  one  has 
ever  accused  Elagabalus  of  being  average.  In  no 
particular  can  he  be  considered  mediocre.  Perhaps 
his  life  and  habits  were  not  those  to  which  the  virile 
Roman  world  was  addicted,  despite  the  fact  that 
Hadrian  had  deified,  in  Antinous,  not  a  lad,  but  a 
lust,  whose  worship,  a  half-century  later,  TertuUian 
noted  was  siill   popular  ;  since  which  time  Christian 

232  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

diatribes  of  all  kinds  have  been  levelled  against  the 
pagans  of  the  decadence,  merely  because  their 
atriums  dropped,  not  blood,  but  metaphysics. 

Were  it  permitted  to  examine  Elagabalus'  extra- 
vagances in  print,  we  should  at  once  realise  that 
they  are  those  common  (in  a  greater  or  less  degree) 
to  all  animals  at  the  age  of  puberty,  where  instinct 
has  not  associated  the  developing  powers  with  any 
one  special  person  or  thing,  but  that  they  are,  in  this 
instance,  exaggerated  by  the  traits  of  his  heredity 
and  surroundings.  What  character  should  we  ex- 
pect to-day  from  a  child  of  nature  if  he  were  free 
with  an  unbounded  liberty,  and  rich  beyond  the 
efforts  of  imagination,  to  say  nothing  of  the  pos- 
session of  a  congenitally  perverted  instinct  ?  The 
more  one  sifts  the  records,  the  clearer  it  appears 
that  Elagabalus'  actions  are  those  of  an  incredibly 
generous  person,  instinctively  trusting,  open-hearted 
and  affectionate,  a  mighty  contrast,  both  in  his 
pleasures  and  his  punishments,  to  the  persons  who 
preceded  him,  and  to  his  successors,  who  mistook 
new  superstitions  for  progress  in  the  development 
of  the  world.  The  example  he  set  in  tolerance  of 
opinions  not  his  own,  and  his  reluctance  to  punish 
those  who  opposed  him,  must  have  led  men  to  expect 
great  things  from  his  manhood.  Alone  of  all  the 
Emperors  he  stands  out  with  the  proud  boast  that 
no  murder  for  political  or  avaricious  purposes  can 
be  laid  to  his  charge.  There  were  a  few  executions, 
amongst  the  adherents  of  Macrinus,  rendered  neces- 
sary by  attempts  to  take  the  crown  from  the  new 
Emperor ;   but  despite  the  fact  of  serious  provoca- 



tion,  his  amnesty  to  the  Senate  and  to  Rome,  for 
their  participation  in  the  usurpation  of  Macrinus  and 
his  son,  was  scrupulously  kept.  In  religious 
matters — his  special  domain — no  one  can  say  that  he 
was  apathetic,  and  yet  there  is  no  instance  of  perse- 
cution recorded,  even  by  Fathers  of  the  Church, 
His  whole  life  was  devoted  to  the  introduction  of  a 
fantastic  eastern  monotheism,  designed  to  extin- 
guish the  polytheistic  atheism  which  permeated 
Roman  society.  Undoubtedly  opposition  and  bitter- 
ness would  have  been  raised  if  the  Emperor  had  not 
shown  a  moderation  foreign  to  his  years,  unless  he  had 
exercised  a  restraining  influence  over  a  mob  which 
was  still  thirsting  for  the  blood  of  the  Judaisers, 
as  later  records  demonstrate.  In  one  particular, 
however,  we  are  told  that  Elagabalus  was  fierce, 
namely,  in  the  contradiction  of  his  pleasures,  none  of 
which  can  in  fairness  be  said  to  have  affected  the 
outside  world.  He  might  have  been  led  ;  certainly 
he  could  not  be  driven ;  what  Antonine  could  ? 
His  tutor  Gannys  found  this  out  too  late,  and  suffered 
for  his  mistake. 

With  a  singular  lack  of  consistency,  Lampridius 
ascribes  all  Elagabalus'  moderation  to  his  grand- 
mother Maesa,  all  his  excesses  to  his  own  fault, 
whereas  psychologists  can  demonstrate  from  a  mass 
of  similar  cases  that  both  his  virtues  and  excesses 
are  those  usually  exhibited  by  one  of  his  tempera- 
ment, and  at  any  rate  his  relations  were  responsible 
for  his  lack  of  early  training  and  non-association  with 
sane,  healthy-minded  persons. 

Undoubtedly  Maesa's  influence,  in  the  executive' 

234  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

government,  was  an  aggravating  factor  ;  but  con- 
sidering the  state  of  autonomy  which  the  machine 
had  then  reached,  and  the  large  influence  exerted 
by  favourites,  it  cannot  be  said  that  she  was 
supreme  ;  indeed,  on  more  than  one  occasion,  we  see 
the  boy  of  fourteen  years  opposing  her  influence  most 
strenuously,  especially  after  she  had  hoodwinked 
him  into  appointing  Alexianus  as  his  coadjutor  in 
the  Empire.  It  was  pitiable,  then,  to  see  the  old 
lady's  efforts  to  retain  her  position  ;  this,  however, 
she  only  managed  to  do  by  persuading  the  troops 
to  mutiny  and  slay  her  grandson.  There  is  not 
much  to  be  said  for  either  party,  but  Elagabalus 
obviously  found  relations  a  tedious  pack  of  people, 
and  their  influence,  like  drugs,  best  taken  in  small 

Quite  a  cursory  study  of  authorities  on  psycho- 
logy, such  as  Krafft-Ebing,  Bloch,  Forel,  Moll,  etc., 
will  show  us  that  characters  like  Elagabalus  have 
occasionally  appeared,  and  are  still  known  in  history. 
They  are  almost  curiosities  of  nature,  and  are  rarely 
if  ever  responsible  for  their  own  instincts,  neither 
are  they  cruel  nor  evil  by  nature. 

To-day  we  are  inclined  to  regard  the  romantic 
friendships  exhibited  in  the  stories  of  David  and 
Jonathan,  Herakles  and  Hylas,  Apollo  and  Hya- 
cinth, to  mention  no  others,  as  the  outcome  of  some- 
■what  similar  natures,  and  we  decry  some  of  the 
noblest  patriots,  tyrannicides,  lawgivers,  and  heroes, 
in  the  early  ages  of  Greece,  because  they  regarded 
the  bond  of  male  friendship  as  higher  and  nobler 
than  what  they  called  the  sensual  love  for  women, 


or  because  they  received  friends  and  comrades  with 
peculiar  honour  on  account  of  their  staunchness  in 
friendship.  Nevertheless,  psychologists  have  noted 
that  this  tendency  towards  the  more  elevated  forms 
of  homo-sexual  feeling  is  still  to  be  found,  more  or 
less  developed,  amongst  religious  leaders  and  other 
persons  with  strong  ethical  instincts.  It  is  only 
therefore  when  this  tendency  occurs  in  slightly 
abnormal  minds  that  we  excite  our  passions  against 
men  whom  our  imagination  alone  has  branded  as 
debased  criminals,  men  for  whom  the  only  fitting 
reward  is  an  application  of  the  stake  and  faggot, 
without  further  inquiry. 

To  the  vulgar-minded,  all  persons  who  present 
deformities,  whether  physical  or  mental,  are  subjects 
of  derision  and  hatred  ;  to  those  who  realise  some- 
thing of  the  disabilities  under  which  these  unfor- 
tunates are  labouring,  they  are  the  objects  of  either 
active  or  passive  sympathy,  —  in  the  abstract,  of 
course  ;  should  the  insane,  the  leprous,  or  even  the 
man  of  genius  get  in  our  way  we,  as  normal  persons, 
feel  ourselves  justified  in  ridding  the  world  of  its 
nuisance.  It  is  thus  that  the  instinct  of  fear,  rather 
than  that  of  justice,  spurs  us  on  to  use  the  collective 
strength  of  the  average,  to  exaggerate  the  abnormal- 
ities of  the  few  ;  but  it  is  not  a  high  or  noble  instinct, 
this  fear  which  has  led  men  for  many  centuries 
through  a  mire  of  cruelty,  superstition,  and  deceit ; 
and  it  is  under  this  lack  of  justice  that  the  memory 
of  Elagabalus  has  long  suffered.  No  credit  has 
been  given  him  for  the  quality  of  mercy  which  he 
displayed,  though  an   absurd   charge  of  cruelty   has 

236  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

been  preferred,  on  the  ground  that  he  occasionally 
took  luncheon  in  the  circus  during  the  progress  of 
the  games ;  his  biographer  gratuitously  assuming 
that  it  was  only  done  when  there  were  criminals 
to  be  executed.  Another  absurd  charge  of  cruelty 
has  been  raised  on  account  of  Antonine's  passion 
for  flowers,  of  which,  says  Lampridius,  such  masses 
fell  from  panels  in  the  ceiling  that  many  were 
smothered ;  an  obvious  exaggeration,  unless  the 
guests  were  paralytics  or  suicidal  lunatics,  and,  as 
even  the  author's  account  mentions  no  compulsion 
put  on  these  gentlemen  thus  to  die,  he  would  seem 
to  invite  a  verdict  of  death  by  misadventure,  rather 
than  by  design,  however  aesthetic. 

There  was  nothing  sinister  about  Elagabalus' 
feasts,  nothing  after  the  style  of  Domitian's  little 
supper  parties,  where  all  was  melanic,  walls,  ceilings, 
linen,  slaves ;  parties  to  which  every  one  worth 
knowing  was  ultimately  bidden,  and,  as  usual  in 
state  functions,  every  one  that  was  bidden  came, 
only  to  find  a  broken  column  inscribed  with  a  too 
familiar  name  behind  his  allotted  couch,  and  Domi- 
tian  talking  very  wittily  about  the  proscriptions  and 
headsmen  he  had  arranged  for  each. 

Caligula  and  Vitellius  had  been  famous  as  hosts, 
but  the  feasts  that  Elagabalus  gave  outranked  theirs 
for  sheer  splendour.  His  guests  certainly  suffered 
from  his  passion  for  teasing,  and  to  dine  with  the 
Emperor  in  such  a  mood  was  no  sybaritic  enjoy- 
ment. He  might  serve  you  with  wax  game  and 
sweets  of  crystal,  the  counterparts  of  what  he  was 
eating  himself,  and  expect  evident  signs  of  enjoy- 


ment  as  you  endeavoured  to  masticate  the  repre- 
sentation ;  he  would  seat  you  on  air  cushions,  and 
have  them  deflated  surreptitiously,  thoroughly  enjoy- 
ing your  discomfort  ;  but  when  that  was  over  you 
would  be  served  with  camels'  heels,  platters  of 
nightingales'  tongues,  ostriches'  brains  (six  hundred  at 
a  time),  prepared  with  that  garum  sauce  which  the 
Sybarites  invented,  and  of  which  the  secret  is  lost. 
Therewith  were  peas  and  grains  of  gold,  beans  and 
amber,  quail  powdered  with  pearl  dust,  lentils  and 
rubies,  spiders  in  jelly,  fig-peckers  served  in  pastry. 
The  guests  that  wine  overcame  were  carried  to 
bedrooms  ;  when  they  awoke,  there,  staring  at  them, 
were  tigers  and  leopards — tame,  of  course,  but  some 
of  the  guests  were  stupid  enough  not  to  know  it, 
and  died  of  fright.  It  might  not  be  pleasant  to  be 
promised  adorable  sirens,  and  to  find  oneself  shut 
up  for  the  night  with  an  elderly  P^thiopian,  but  it  was 
not  essentially  cruel  or  debased,  at  least  not  from 
the  humorist  point  of  view,  as  was  proved  by  the 
laughter  of  the  Emperor  at  the  sight  of  your  dis- 
gusted face  when  he  let  you  out  in  the  morning. 
Unless  you  were  fond  of  the  water,  it  could  not 
have  been  a  pleasant  experience  to  take  the  part  of  a 
water  Ixion — tied  to  a  revolving  wheel — for  the  Em- 
peror's lust  of  the  eye  ;  but  if  you  submitted  to  these 
things,  you  were  sure  of  a  reward  more  liberal  than 
any  you  had  expected.  Lampridius  reports  that  no 
guests  left  the  Emperor's  presence  with  empty  hands. 
After  dinner  he  would  give  you  the  gold  and  silver 
plate  from  which  you  had  eaten,  or  cause  you  to 
draw  lots  for  prizes  which  varied  from  a  dead  dog  to 


the  half  of  his  daily  revenue.  Elagabalus  saw  no 
virtue  in  sending  men  away  in  the  style  of  Domitian 
with  their  heads  under  their  arms, — it  was  too  con- 
ventionally the  pose  of  the  Christian  martyr. 

The  description  applied  to  Caesar's  sexual  con- 
dition can  with  equal  justice  be  applied  to  this  youth 
of  seventeen.  He  was  a  woman  for  all  men,  and  a 
man  for  all  women,  at  least  if  one  can  judge  by  the 
number  of  wives  he  married  during  his  short  reign 
of  less  than  four  years.  The  number  was  six, 
according  to  Dion  Cassius.  Three  of  them  were 
well-known  women,  one  a  Vestal,  by  whom  he 
designed  to  produce  a  demi-god.  The  others  are 
only  referred  to,  their  names  are  quite  unknown. 
By  none  of  them,  however,  had  he  any  issue,  which 
perhaps  is  as  well,  since  he  frequently  remarked  that 
should  he  have  children,  he  would  bring  them  up  to 
his  way  of  living,  in  his  outlook  on  life,  and  the 
world  could  scarcely  have  stood  a  successor  of  his 
abnormal  temperament.  How  far  his  marriages 
were  true  matrimony  we  do  not  know,  but  the  fact 
of  his  going  through  the  ceremony  presupposes  that 
the  statements  of  Lampridius  and  Zonaras  to  the 
effect  that  he  was  initiated  a  priest  of  Cybele  (in  the 
full  sense)  are  exaggerations,  and  also  that  the 
operation  which  would  have  made  him  a  woman  to 
outward  appearance  as  well  as  in  sentiment  and 
affections,  never  took  place ;  indeed,  this  is  im- 
possible on  both  physiological  and  psychological 

Despite  these  marriages,  the  one  romance  of  this 
boy's    life    was    with    the    fair-haired    chariot-driver 


Hierocles.  His  identity  is  somewhat  involved, 
though  Dion  Cassius  states  that  he  was  a  Carian 
slave,  by  profession  a  chariot-driver.  This  lad 
found  his  fortune  by  a  mere  accident.  One  day  he 
was  thrown  from  his  chariot,  right  against  the  im- 
perial pulvinar.  and  lost  his  helmet.  Elagabalus 
was  there  and  at  once  noted  the  perfect  profile  and 
curly  hair  of  the  athlete.  He  had  him  transferred 
to  the  palace,  where  on  account  of  a  similarity  of 
taste  the  intimacy  soon  ripened  into  love,  and  that 
again,  according  to  Xiphilinus,  into  a  contract  of 

Hierocles  must  have  been  the  best,  and  certainlv 
was  the  most  powerful,  of  that  army  of  sycophants 
and  courtesans  which  had  always  thronged  the  Roman 
Court.  We  have  no  complaints  against  his  exercise 
of  authority,  though  Lampridius  says  that  his  power 
exceeded  that  of  the  Emperor  himself.  His  banish- 
ment was  demanded,  with  that  of  others,  in  the 
first  mutiny,  but  he  was  immediately  allowed  to 
return,  despite  the  fact  that  Elagabalus  medi- 
tated conferring  the  imperial  title  upon  him.  He 
was  a  good  son,  and  in  his  prosperity  was  in 
no  way  ashamed  of  his  mother.  He  openly  pur- 
chased her  from  her  owners,  and  sent  a  company  of 
the  Praetorian  Guard  to  bring  her  to  Rome,  there 
placing  her  amongst  the  women  whose  husbands  had 
been  Consuls.  He  appears  to  have  been  proud  not 
only  of  his  position,  but  also  ol  the  Emperor's  love  for 
him,  as  the  story  of  the  Smyrnian  Zoticus  related  by 
Xiphilinus  and  Zonaras  well  illustrates.  They  relate 
how  he  gave  the  youth  a  drug  which  made  him  useless 

240  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

to  the  Emperor  during  the  first  night,  and  thus  pro- 
cured his  expulsion  from  the  palace,  though  probably 
the  story  of  Zoticus'  disgrace,  on  account  of  his 
treachery  and  venality  (Lampridius'  version)  contains 
as  much  truth  as  any  other.  Certainly  Hierocles 
had  no  just  cause  for  fear ;  Elagabalus'  affection 
was  too  feminine,  too  deep-rooted,  to  do  more  than 
tease  the  man  from  whose  hands,  like  many  another 
woman  in  history,  he  was  more  than  willing  to  take 
ill-usage  and  stripes,  if  only  they  were  signs  of 
jealousy  or  proofs  of  affection. 

Of  course  there  were  others.  The  Elagabalus  of 
whom  Lampridius  treats  was  a  second  Messalina  in 
the  variety  of  his  tastes,  and  in  the  frequency  of 
his  visits  to  the  various  lupanars  of  the  city,  and 
like  this  Empress  he  measured  his  attractiveness 
by  the  amount  of  gold  he  could  carry  home  after 
such  expeditions.  He  cultivated  the  class  of  person 
who  could  discourse  on  the  spintries  with  which 
Tiberius  had  refreshed  his  jaded  mind  and  en- 
feebled frame,  and  made  much  of  the  man  who  could 
invent  new  sauces  or  other  species  of  Sybaritic 
enjoyment.  All  such  he  treated  with  consideration, 
teased  them  and  excited  them,  it  is  true,  but  pam- 
pered and  fed  them  (sometimes,  exclusively  on 
their  own  inventions,  till  they  could  produce  some- 
thing more  palatable),  and  loaded  them  with  gifts, 
honours,  offices,  dignities,  until  they  learnt  that  the 
condition  of  perfection  is  idleness,  the  aim  of  -per- 
fection is  youth.  We  can  well  imagine  the  fury  of 
the  legitimate  office  seekers  when  they  saw  these 
children  of  pleasure  preferred  before  them. 


In  a  discussion  on  his  psychology  mention  must 
be  made  of  Elagabalus'  love  of  colour.  To  the 
Roman,  white  in  its  cleanliness  and  simplicity  was 
the  acme  of  an  aesthetic  taste,  though  the  profusion 
of  purple  borderings,  the  mingling  of  scarlet  and 
gold,  showed  his  kinship  with  the  children  of  the 
south.  Syria,  and  the  East  generally,  loved  that 
mass  of  brilliancy  which  relieves  the  aridity  of  the 
land ;  Elagabalus,  posing  as  the  aesthete  of  his 
time,  annoyed  the  Roman  world  by  his  love  of 
purple  and  shaded  silk  garments,  by  his  passion  for 
green,  in  all  its  known  shades,  and  for  feasts  in 
which  everything  was  in  the  deep  azure  of  a  cloud- 
less sky.  To-day  we  still  cultivate  colour  schemes 
without  much  hostile  comment,  as  it  takes  the 
philosopher  to  discover  their  puerility,  the  prurient- 
minded  their  wickedness  and  degeneracy. 

We  are  told  that  the  blatant  discussions  of  his 
amusements  made  right-minded  men  blush,  causing 
ultimate  nausea  for  his  tastes  and  opinions.  But  it 
could  only  have  been  the  few  he  had  the  opportunity 
of  disgusting ;  the  majority  had  heard  the  same 
before  and  showed  no  desire  to  be  shocked.  Other 
Emperors  had  been  as  outspoken,  be  it  said  to  their 
reprobation  as  well  as  to  his,  but  other  Emperors 
had  not  been  so  good-hearted,  so  filled  with  the 
charity  that  thinketh  no  wrong.  When  they  had 
scented  opposition  they  had  removed  the  cause 
forthwith  ;  Elagabalus  let  it  grow  and  strengthen 
till  it  swallowed  him  up. 

It  may  be  that,  as  Lampridius  says,  his  eftemin- 
acy  disgusted   the  virile   Roman  world.      It  was  a 


242  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

vice  as  reprehensible  then  as  now.  The  genius  of 
the  Greek  and  Roman  friendships  was  all  against 
the  weak  softness  of  the  Semitic  races.  Greek 
love  had  been  regulated  "  to  strengthen  hardihood, 
to  breed  a  contempt  for  death,  to  overcome  the 
sweet  desire  for  life,  to  humanise  cruelty,  to  which 
powers  almost  as  much  veneration  is  due  as  to 
the  cult  of  the  Immortal  Gods,"  says  Valerius 
Maximus,  in  his  treatise  De  amicitiae  vinculo. 
It  would  have  been  small  wonder  if  the  whole 
mass  of  healthy  -  minded  individuals  had  turned 
from  Lampridius'  picture  of  this  little  painted 
quean  of  seventeen  years,  who  never  showed  in 
himself  any  traits  of  manliness,  except  when  he  was 
on  the  seat  of  judgment.  If  he  had  been  portrayed 
as  wholly  woman,  or  wholly  man,  we  could  have 
understood  him,  but  for  this  strange  admixture  even 
the  physicians  are  at  a  loss  to  account,  almost  to 
understand.  He  had  his  good  qualities  and  had  them 
in  plenty,  but  overshadowing  them  all,  like  a  terrible 
blight,  there  was  this  organic  affliction  of  the  senses, 
passions,  and  general  outlook.  Unfortunately,  this 
blight  of  femininity  still  exists  in  the  world  to  a 
certain  extent,  especially  amongst  religious  persons. 
Gulick  holds  that  the  reason  why  only  7  per  cent  of 
young  men  attend  the  Christian  churches  is  because 
the  qualities  demanded  are  feminine  not  virile,  such 
as  passive  love,  passive  suffering,  rest,  prayer,  trust ; 
whereas  Confucianism  and  Mahommedanism  attract 
men  because  the  demand  is  for  virile  qualities,  and 
the  place  for  women  is  small.  Such  faiths  make  even 
more    than    individual    demands  on    the  virtues  of 


courage,  endurance,  self-control,  bravery,  loyalty, 
and  enthusiasm.  Gulick  says  also,  that  the  able- 
bodied  boy  who  lacks  the  courage  to  fight  is 
generally  a  milksop,  or  a  sneak,  without  any  high 
sense  of  honour.  ,^    '^  V^ " 

In  this  epitome  of  the  qualities  demanded  of 
men  we  see  the  true  grounds  on  which  the  world 
has  instinctively  condemned  Elagabalus,  though 
probably  without  quite  knowing  why  they  did  so. 
It  is  because  they  have  been  told  that  he  pos- 
sessed the  virtues,  along  with  the  mind,  of  the 
woman,  and  a  voluptuous  woman  at  that,  and  had 
nothing  of  what  the  world  expects  to  find  in  the 
male  animal.  His  reign  was  short,  so  he  left  no 
traces  of  his  mind  on  the  Empire,  and  what  little  he 
did  effect  was  reversed  by  his  successor.  His  reign 
of  prodigal  extravagance  caused  not  one  single  new 
impost ;  his  government  of  the  city  and  provinces 
alike  was  one  of  peace  and  harmony.  That  in- 
famous system  of  informers  under  which  the  aristo- 
cracy and  plutocracy  of  Rome  had  suffered  so  direly 
up  to  the  death  of  Caracalla  was  never  re-estab- 
lished by  Elagabalus ;  despite  the  fact  that  his  rule 
had  been  subverted,  on  more  than  one  occasion,  by 
the  existing  aristocrats.  The  people  was  sovereign, 
and  it  was  important  that  that  sovereign  should  be 
amused,  flattered,  and  fed.  All  was  done  that  had 
been  done  before  by  the  demi-gods,  and  all  was  done 
with  an  exaggeration  unparalleled.  His  games  in  the 
circus  were  such  that  even  Lampridius  admits  the 
people  considered  him  a  worthy  Emperor,  because 
he  was  endowed  with  a  sense  of  the  grandeur  of  the 

244  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS        chap,  ix 

imperial  position,  and  expressed  it  by  his  marvel- 
lous prodigalities.  They  made  him  what  he  was, 
and  has  ever  remained  in  history,  the  Emperor  of 
extravagance.  In  him  the  glow  of  the  purple 
reached  its  apogee.  Rome  had  been  watching  a 
crescendo  that  had  mounted  with  the  ages.  Its 
culmination  was  in  this  hermaphrodite.  But  the 
tension  had  been  too  great,  even  for  the  solidarity 
of  Imperial  Rome  ;  it  was  as  though,  the  mainspring 
had  snapped,  and  the  age  of  anarchy,  both  military 
and  religious,  did  the  rest :  undermining  the  State, 
till  the  Emperors,  whose  sceptre  had  lashed  both 
gods  and  sky,  became  little  better  than  a  procession 
of  bandits,  coloured  and  ornate  it  is  true,  but 
utterly  lacking  in  that  strength  and  virility  which 
is  the  essential  of  real  government  throughout  the 

Thus  did  Rome  make  way  for  Attila,  the  scourge 
whom  God  sent  for  the  final  extinction  of  art  and 
philosophy,  and  incidentally  for  the  refurbishing  of 
the  world  under  its  mediaeval  guise. 



The  Rome  of  Elagabalus  was  a  dream  aflame  with 
gold,  "a  city  of  triumphal  arches,  enchanted  temples, 
royal  dwellings,  vast  porticoes,  and  wide,  hospitable 
streets ;  a  Rome  purely  Greek  in  conception  and 
design.  On  its  heart,  from  the  Circus  Maximus  to 
the  Forum's  edge,  the  remains  of  the  gigantic 
Palace  of  Nero  still  shone,  fronted  by  a  stretch  of 
columns  a  mile  in  length  ;  a  palace  so  wonderful  that 
even  the  cellars  were  frescoed.  In  the  baths  of 
porphyry  and  verd-antique  you  had  waters  cold  or 
sulphurous  at  will,  and  these  Elagabalus  threw  open 
to  all  whose  forms  pleased  him,  men  and  women 
alike  "  (a  custom  of  mixed  bathing  which  had  been 
abolished  by  Hadrian  and  was  again  proscribed  by 
Alexander  Severus).  "  The  dining-halls  had  ivory 
ceilings,  from  which  flowers  fell,  and  wainscots  that 
changed  at  every  service.  The  walls  were  alive 
with  the  glisten  of  gems,  with  marbles  rarer  than 
jewels.  In  one  hall  was  a  dome  of  sapphire,  a  floor 
of  malachite,  crystal  columns  and  red  gold  walls ; 
about  the  palace  were  green  savannahs,  forest 
reaches,  the  call  of  the  bird  and  deer  ;   before  it  was 


246  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

a  lake,  eight  acres  of  which  Vespasian  had  drained 
and  replaced  by  an  amphitheatre,  which  is  still  the 
wonder  of  the  world." 

Into  this  profusion  of  aesthetic  loveliness  the 
youth  of  fourteen  summers  stepped  proudly,  realising 
how  fitting  a  background  it  made  to  his  glorious 
beauty.  It  was  Nero's  creation,  and  here  was 
a  young  Nero  (in  face  and  manner)  suddenly  re- 
appeared to  enjoy  what  he  had  been  prematurely 
forced  to  leave. 

In  spite  of  everything,  Nero  was  still  the  idol  of 
the  masses.  For  years  fresh  roses  had  lain  on  his 
tomb,  the  memory  of  his  festivals  was  unforgettable, 
regret  for  him  refused  to  be  stilled ;  he  was  more 
than  a  god,  he  was  a  tradition,  and  his  second 
advent  was  confidently  expected.  The  Egyptians 
had.  proclaimed  that  the  soul  has  its  avatars  ;  the 
Romans  had  sneered  in  their  philosophical  fashion 
at  all  ideas  of  soul  migration  till  Elagabalus  saun- 
tered from  that  distant  Emesa,  an  Antonine  at  the 
head  of  an  adoring  army;  then  they  began  to  think 
that  the  Egyptians  were  wiser  than  they  looked,  for 
in  the  blue  eyes  of  the  young  Emperor  the  spirit  of 
Nero's  magnificence  shone. 

All  men  were  charmed  ;  the  Senate  with  their 
Aurelius,  the  people  with  their  Nero,  the  army  with 
their  Antonine.  Certainly  in  profusion  Elagabalus 
was  destined  to  rival  his  prototype.  His  prodigal- 
ities were  more  excessive,  his  mignons  more  blatant, 
his  wives  more  numerous,  and  his  processions  more 
splendid.  Only  in  cruelty  (at  which  none  can  cavil) 
did  the  resemblance   fail.      Nero  had  regretted  his 


ability  to  write  when  first  a  death-warrant  was  pre- 
sented for  his  signature  ;  he  appended  his  name  and 
soon  found  the  taste  for  blood.  Elagabalus  wept  at 
the  sight  of  suffering,  poverty  and  misery  to  the  end 
of  his  life  ;  and  as  he  never  avoided  seeing  it,  he 
must  have  wept  often.  In  fact,  a  favourite  pastime, 
according  to  Herodian,  was  wandering  disguised 
through  the  purlieus  of  the  city ;  sometimes  he 
would  serve  as  potboy  in  the  taverns,  or  as  barber's 
assistant  in  the  slums,  as  itinerant  vendor  of  vege- 
tables and  perfumes  about  the  streets  ;  which  antics 
assume  a  most  reprehensible  flavour  in  the  mouth 
of  the  historians  after  the  Emperor  had  conceived 
the  notion  of  taking  the  world  into  his  confidence 
and  had  ordered  paintings  of  himself  in  the  plebeian 
garbs  above  mentioned.  Any  way,  Elagabalus 
tried  to  alleviate  distress,  which  was  more  practical 
than  tears,  though  an  unusual  extravagance  amongst 
the  Emperors  of  the  decadence. 

From  his  infancy  the  boy  had  gloried  in  extra- 
vagance. Even  as  a  private  citizen  we  are  told  that 
he  refused  to  stir  without  a  procession  of  sixty  chariots 
following,  a  foible  which  had  caused  Maesa  to  gnash 
her  teeth  instead  of  adopting  measures  which  would 
prevent  the  recurrence  of  such  ostentation.  He  had 
never  even thoughtof  austerity, simplicity,  and  poverty 
as  necessary  evils,  let  alone  as  Christian  virtues,  to 
be  borne  with  fortitude  and  temperance.  Once 
when  a  friend  asked  him  whether  he  was  not  afraid 
that  his  prodigalities  would  land  him  in  ultimate 
necessity,  he  replied  with  an  astounding  self-com- 
placency,  "  What  can  be  better  for  me  than  to  be 


heir  to  myself."  Like  many  a  modern  child,  he 
objected  to  woollen  garments,  and  his  parents  were 
foolish  enough  to  give  way  to  his  whimsies ;  he 
disliked  the  feel  of  wool,  he  said.  Another  prejudice 
was  against  linen  that  had  been  washed.  So  dainty 
was  he  that  he  never  used  the  same  garments,  the 
same  jewels,  the  same  woman  twice  (unless  it  were 
his  wife),  says  Lampridius.  But  in  Rome  wool  was 
necessary  ;  Rome  was  never  healthy.  Maesa  knew 
it  by  experience,  but  was  more  than  willing  to  tempt 
providence  by  returning  thither.  The  Tramontana 
visited  it  then  as  now ;  fever  too,  and  sudden  death. 
Wool  was  certainly  necessary ;  besides,  it  was  the 
accustomed  dress  of  the  country,  and  Rome  was 
intensely  conservative,  she  would  not  endure  an 
Emperor  who  came  dressed  as  an  Eastern  barbarian  ; 
the  boy  of  thirteen  years  must  adopt  the  clothes, 
habits,  and  customs  of  his  adopted  country,  of  his 
reputed  father ;  thus  the  grandmother  argued  till 
Elagabalus  was  bored  with  the  discussion,  and  told 
the  lady  so.  He  was  devising,  moreover,  he  an- 
nounced, garments  more  splendid  and  more  bizarre 
than  any  Rome  had  found  outside  the  temple  at 
Jerusalem.  His  fancy  was  a  frail  tunic  of  purple 
silk  diapered  with  gold,  or  that  even  more  resplen- 
dent vestment  which  was  woven  throughout  of  fine 
gold  and  encrusted  with  gems.  Alone  of  the 
garments  he  had  seen,  this  enhanced  his  beauty  and 
gave  dignity  to  his  movements.  The  sleeves  were 
long  and  full,  reaching  to  his  heels,  open  to  show 
the  rounded  softness  of  his  girlish  arms ;  gilded 
leather  covered  his  feet  and  reached  to  his  thighs  ;  it 


was  softer  than  wool  and  certainly  showed  his  form 
to  better  advantage.  Sometimes  after  supper  he 
would  appear  in  public  dressed  in  the  stiff  dalmatic 
of  a  young  deacon,  calling  himself  Fabius  Gurgis, 
and  Scipio,  because  the  parents  of  these  youths  had 
formerly  shown  them  to  the  people  in  this  costume 
in  order  to  correct  their  bad  manners. 

Encircling  his  curls  (but  in  the  palace  only)  was 
a  diadem  of  heavy  gold,  studded  with  jewels ;  not 
the  simple  golden  circlet  known  to  the  Roman  world, 
but  one  after  a  Persian  design,  first  introduced  by 
Caracalla,  rich,  splendid,  and  brilliant  with  the 
numbers  of  rubies,  sapphires,  and  emeralds  which 
he  thought  became  him.  Unfortunately,  his 
taste  for  precious  stones  did  not  stop  here.  Lam- 
pridius  and  Herodian  pour  deserved  scorn  on 
the  numerous  bracelets,  rings  and  necklaces,  all  as 
rich  and  costly  as  could  be  made,  with  which  he 
decked  his  person  ;  but,  perhaps  unnecessarily,  on 
his  shoe-buckles,  whose  stones,  engraved  cameo 
and  intaglio,  were  the  wonder  of  the  beholder,  and 
their  cry  has  been  increased  to  a  howl  by  later 
commentators,  who  seem  to  consider  it  a  species 
of  indecency  that  the  Emperor's  shoes  should  be  of 
fine  leather,  his  stones  priceless,  while  theirs  were 
of  ill-dressed  cowhide,  held  together  with  buckles 
of  paste. 

Of  course,  it  is  not  a  pleasant  taste,  this  over- 
laying of  the  body  with  an  inordinate  display  of 
wealth,  even  when  done  merely  for  the  honour  of 
one's  God,  as  Elagabalus  protested.  Unfortunately, 
it  is  still  known  both  in  the   Plutocratic  and  Sacer- 

250  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

dotal  worlds.  Certain  minds  still  revolt,  still  see  its 
snobbery,  vanity  and  degeneracy,  are  even  foolish 
enough  to  imagine  that  the  personal  vanity  of  such 
functionaries  will  one  day  renounce  what  is  their 
main  means  of  attraction. 

Elagabalus'  love  of  extravagance  comes  out  most 
strongly  in  his  ritual  of  worship.  Never  in  the 
history  of  Rome  had  such  daily  waste  of  life  and 
liquor,  such  profusion  of  colour  and  gold,  flowers, 
music,  and  movement  displayed  the  honour  of  God 
or  man.  The  Emperor's  one  idea  was  to  eclipse  all 
that  his  predecessors  had  imagined.  It  was  a 
stupendous  task  to  surpass  Nero  in  fantasy,  Otho 
and  Vitellius  in  greediness  ;  but  he  had  read  Sue- 
tonius, and  not  an  eccentricity  of  the  Caesars  had 
escaped  his  notice.  He  knew,  too,  where  to  exceed 
them,  and  still  lives  on  the  reputation  of  a  work 

The  hecatombs  of  oxen  and  innumerable  quantities 
of  sheep  which  came  daily  to  the  temple  of  the  Only 
God  required  a  perfect  army  of  butchers  that  their 
slaughter  might  do  homage  to  the  Deity  while  day- 
light lasted.  These,  with  the  spices,  wine,  and 
flowers,  were  but  part  payment  of  the  interest  which 
the  high  priest  felt  his  family  owed  to  Elagabal  for 
the  past  and  present  successes  of  his  house,  while 
his  most  beloved  title  was  that  which  styled  him 
"  Invictus  Sacerdos,  Dei  Soli."  There  is  a  great 
variety  in  his  medals,  both  in  those  coined  by  the 
Senate  and  in  those  struck  by  himself,  whereon  this 
priesthood  of  his  is  described.  Chief  Priest  and 
Invincible  Priest  of  Elagabal,  or  the  Sun,  are  com- 


monly  to  be  met  with  round  his  image,  which  stands 
in  a  sacrificing  posture,  with  a  censer  in  his  hand, 
over  an  altar.  It  was  in  this  supreme  ineffable 
spirit  that  the  Emperor  put  his  trust,  to  him  he 
ascribed  his  health,  wealth,  and  security,  together 
with  that  of  his  whole  catholic  church  militant  here 
on  earth. 

On  his  arrival  in  Rome  in  the  year  a.d.  219, 
Elagabalus  thought  well  to  carry  through  the  laud- 
able custom  (for  the  poor)  of  bestowing  the  usual 
congiary  on  the  people.  If  Mediobarbus  were  to  be 
trusted,  he  gave  six  such  during  his  short  reign 
of  approximately  four  years,  besides  the  soldiers' 
donatives  (which  to  his  cost  and  undoing  he  foolishly 
neglected  as  time  went  on).  To-day  such  liberalities 
on  the  part  of  a  sovereign  take  the  form  of  free 
meals  and  a  limited  supply  of  beer,  but  are  amiable 
and  satisfying  methods  of  spending  the  public  money 
in  an  ingratiating  fashion.  What  Elagabalus  gave 
was  from  the  private  funds  of  his  house,  and  was 
given  in  a  manner  quite  his  own.  Formerly  it  had 
been  usual  to  distribute  gold  and  silver  (Nero  had 
added  eccentric  gifts,  of  course)  on  such  occasions, 
but  Elagabalus  signalised  his  assumption  of  the 
Consulship  by  the  distribution  of  fat  oxen,  camels, 
eunuchs,  slaves,  caparisoned  saddle-horses,  closed 
sedans  and  carriages,  hoping,  as  he  remarked,  that 
all  men  would  remember  these  were  the  gifts  of  the 
Emperor  ;  as  though  any  were  likely  to  forget  when 
they  found  themselves  saddled  with  a  dromedary, 
and  expected  to  conduct  it  safely  to  their  own  back- 
yard through  the  crowded  lanes  of  the  city.     Such 


gifts  were  often  more  trouble  than  they  were  worth, 
and  the  scramble  at  the  distribution  much  what  it 
would  be  now,  at  least,  according  to  Lampridius' 
description  of  those  yearly  distributions  which 
followed  the  translation  of  the  Great  God  to  his 
temple  in  the  suburbs. 

At  times  Elagabalus  gave  money ;  witness  the 
congiary  and  donative  to  celebrate  his  marriage 
with  Cornelia  Paula,  when,  as  Herodian  tells  us, 
not  only  the  people,  but  also  the  Senators,  Equites, 
and  even  the  Senators'  wives  partook  of  the 
liberality,  receiving  150  denares  each,  the  soldiers 
250,  on  account,  presumably,  of  their  superior 

Had  this  boy's  megalomania  stopped  short  at 
donatives  and  congiaries,  we  should  know  little  but 
good  of  him  ;  unfortunately,  he  considered  that  to 
love  oneself  is  the  beginning  of  a  lifelong  romance, 
and  spent  his  money  as  best  pleased  his  fancy 
at  the  moment,  which  was  always  with  a  taste  for 

We  can  imagine  the  beauty  of  his  reclining 
couches,  solid  silver,  richly  chased,  the  cushions 
upholstered  in  purple  woven  with  pure  gold.  Entire 
services  in  silver  for  table  use,  very  massive  ;  even 
the  saucepans  were  in  the  same  metal,  and  elegantly 
fashioned  vases  or  cups  containing  100  lbs.  weight 
of  precious  metal  apiece,  with  the  most  obvious 
indecencies  engraved  or  repoussed  on  the  sides  ;  the 
strange  part  of  it  all  being  that  he  took  delight,  not 
so  much  in  the  possession  of  all  this  splendour  as 
in  the  giving  of  it  to  his  friends,  so  much  so  that 


the  silversmiths  could  scarce  keep  pace  with  his 
generosity.  It  is  a  good  feeling  that  of  giving 
generously,  better  to  give  than  to  receive,  and 
what  Elagabalus  got  in  return  cost  the  giver  so 
little  pain. 

To  food  and   drink   the   Emperor  was  as  much 
addicted  as  the  traditional  city  alderman,  though  his 
imagination  certainly  surpassed  that  of  the  retired 
tradesman,  at  least  in  quality  and  design.      His  chief 
authority  was  Apicius,  the  renowned  author  of  a  book 
entitled  De  re  cogicinaria,  but  he  had  other  models 
almost  as  famous,  if  not  as  long-lived,  in  the   Em- 
perors Otho  and  Vitellius,  and   managed  to  outdo 
them  all   in  extravagance.      Lampridius  states  that 
no  feast  cost  Elagabalus  less  than  100,000  sesterces, 
and  often  reached  the  stupendous  figure  of  300,000, 
totit   co?npris.        The    number    of  dishes    has    been 
reached,  if  not  surpassed,  by  modern  luxury,  but  to 
Lampridius    twenty-two    courses    sounded    absurd ; 
not  so,  however,  the  ablutions  and  courtesans  who 
always   attended    and   utilised    the    intervals    in   an 
unbecoming  manner.     Occasionally  these   intervals 
were    of  some    length,    caused    by   the   removal   of 
whole  services  of  plate  to   the  possession  of  some 
guest  who  had  said  the  right  thing  at  the  psycho- 
logical   moment.        Another    means    of    delay    was 
found  in  the  practice,  which  Elagabalus  instituted,  of 
taking  each  course  in  the  house  of  a  different  friend, 
an  arrangement  which  necessitated  the  transference 
of  the  whole  party  in  their  gold  and  ivory  chariots 
from    the    Capitol    to   the    Palatine,    thence   to    the 
Coelian  Hill,  and  again  to  another  friend  who  might 

254  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

live  beyond  the  walls,  or  yet  to  another  in  Tras- 
tevere.  This,  with  the  usual  impedimenta,  arriving 
at  the  house  of  each,  for  the  dishes  in  their  order, 
took  time,  and  in  such  a  fashion  we  can  well  believe 
the  chronicler  who  states  that  a  single  feast  was 
scarce  finished  in  the  daytime,  especially  as  the 
intervals  for  customary  enjoyments  were  arranged 
with  due  regard  for  the  utmost  desires  of  the  guests. 
It  is  charming  to  imagine  a  feast  such  as  is 
recorded  of  Maecenas,  where  "in  ungirdled  tunics 
the  guests  lay  on  silver  beds,  the  head  and  neck  en- 
circled with  amaranthe — whose  perfume,  in  opening 
the  pores,  neutralises  the  fumes  of  wine — fanned  by 
boys,  whose  curly  hair  they  used  as  napkins.  Under 
the  supervision  of  butlers  the  courses  were  served 
on  silver  platters,  so  large  that  they  covered  the 
tables.  Sows'  breasts  with  Lybian  truffles  ;  dormice 
baked  in  poppies  and  honey ;  peacocks'  tongues 
flavoured  with  cinnamon ;  oysters  stewed  in  garum 
— a  sort  of  anchovy  sauce  made  of  the  intestines  of 
fish — flamingoes'  and  ostriches'  brains,  followed  by 
the  brains  of  thrushes,  parroquets,  pheasants,  and 
peacocks,  also  a  yellow  pig  cooked  after  the  Trojan 
fashion,  from  which,  when  carved,  hot  sausages  fell 
and  live  thrushes  flew  ;  sea- wolves  from  the  Baltic, 
sturgeons  from  Rhodes,  fig-peckers  from  Samos, 
African  snails  and  the  rest."  A  full  list  of  the  dainties 
set  forth  would  weary  the  amateur,  might  even 
make  him  envious  of  the  times  that  are  now  long 
dead,  times  when  the  ceaseless  round  of  beef  and 
mutton  would  have  been  considered  monotonous  or 
bad  art,  and  year  in  year  out  plain  boiled  greens 


were  unknown ;  times  when  the  Emperor  served, 
as  we  have  recorded,  grains  of  gold  with  his  peas, 
rubies  with  lentils,  beans  and  amber,  for  the  mere 
pleasure  of  sight ;  though  his  salads  of  mullets'  fins 
with  cress,  balm  mint,  and  fenugreek,  we  should 
probably  have  found  no  greater  delicacy  than  the 
undercooked  vegetables  of  this  twentieth  century 
of  our  salvation  and  discomfort. 

As  with  food,  so  with  wine,  Elagabalus  was  a 
glutton.  Mulsum,  that  cup  composed  of  white 
wine,  roses,  nard,  absinthe  and  honey,  was  vieux 
jeu.  The  delicate  wines  of  Greece  were  always 
palatable  ;  so  was  the  crusty  Falernian  of  the  year 
632  A.U.C.,  to  those  who  were  of  an  age  to  appreciate 
its  worth.  The  young  gourmet  thought  otherwise,  and 
rendered  them  noisome  by  the  addition  of  crushed 
pine  kernels  and  fir  cones.  It  was  a  youthful  taste, 
such  as  we  still  distrust,  but  scarcely  immoral  in  the 
generally  accepted  sense  of  the  term.  As  regards 
a  tendency  to  over-indulgence  in  good  liquor,  we 
have  no  data ;  there  is  a  passage  in  Lampridius 
(though  evidently  faulty)  which  asserts  that  the 
Emperor  used  to  mix  wine  with  the  baths  and  then 
invite  the  guests  to  drink,  the  basin  from  which  he 
had  drunk  being  easily  distinguishable  by  the  fall 
in  its  level ;  an  utter  impossibility,  and  not  even 
clever  as  a  bit  of  scandal.  Another  extravagance 
culled  from  the  same  biographer  tells  how  this  child 
realised  the  summer  by  feasts  at  which  all  was  of  one 
colour,  food  as  well  as  fittings,  and  how  he  would 
order  all  the  dishes  of  a  certain  day  to  be  composed 
of  a  single  sort  of  flesh  :  it  might  be  pheasant  under 

256  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

twenty  different  garbs,  fowls  served  on  the  same 
scale,  even  fish,  if  the  Court  happened  to  be  at  a 
distance  from  the  sea.  At  another  time  you  would 
be  served  with  a  vegetarian  diet,  or  occasionally 
with  nothing  but  pork,  which  sounds  inconsistent 
when  we  consider  that  the  same  author  has  sneered 
copiously  at  the  Emperor's  adoption  of  the  Jewish 
superstition  in  this  matter.  He  further  tells  us  that 
it  was  not  magnificent  enough  for  this  child's  fancy 
to  recline  on  silver  beds,  with  covers  fashioned  in 
cloth  of  gold  ;  his  cushions  were  of  hare's  fur,  or 
down  from  under  the  partridge's  wing,  whilst  the 
whole  was  strewn  thick  with  flowers  and  perfumes, 
those  of  important  guests  with  saffron  and  gold  dust. 
Wherever  he  went  were  flov/ers  strewing  the  way — 
lilies,  violets,  roses,  and  narcissus. 

No  mention  of  psychological  extravagance  would 
be  complete  without  a  certain  disquisition  on  the 
use  of  perfumes.  Here,  as  everywhere  else,  Lam- 
pridius  tells  us  that  Elagabalus  contrived  to  outdo 
his  predecessors.  The  use  he  made  of  unguents 
was  little  short  of  dissolute.  As  usual,  the  biogra- 
pher would  have  us  believe  that  the  lailing  was  an 
idiosyncrasy  peculiar  to  the  Emperor,  whose  life  he 
was  decrying.  He  had  obviously  not  heard  of  the 
soporific  nastiness  of  Solomon's  beloved,  a  lady 
who  is  represented  to  us  by  the  writer  of  the  Can- 
ticles as  a  cluster  of  camphire,  a  mountain  of  myrrh, 
a  hill  of  frankincense,  spikenard  and  cinnanion, 
additions  which  would  not  only  have  made  her 
sticky,  but  noisome  to  boot.  Mahommed  and  his 
pavement    of  musk  was  beyond   Lampridius'  ken, 


but  he  had  certainly  heard  of  the  perfumes  which 
scented  the  temple  at  Jerusalem,  and  it  would  have 
been  no  new  sight  for  him  to  have  watched  Elaga- 
balus  pour  tons  of  aromatics  upon  the  new  altars 
erected  to  the  ancient  gods. 

Even  to-day  we  know  something  about  the 
odour  of  sanctity  and  occasionally  inhale  its  delights 
by  stealth,  because,  despite  undoubted  legal  pro- 
hibition, the  clergy  have  persuaded  us  that  the 
Gods  still  love  the  smell  of  incense.  Our  point  is, 
however,  that  everything  sacred  and  profane  stank 
horribly  at  the  period.  Thank  heaven,  the  personal 
use  of  7nille  fteurs  which  then  obsessed  the  world 
has  now  given  place  to  a  smell  of  the  open.  But 
there  was  nothing  unusual  during  the  third  century 
in  the  fact  that  Elagabalus  burnt  Indian  aromatics 
instead  of  coal  in  his  dining-rooms,  balm  instead  of 
petroleum  in  his  lamps,  and  heated  his  stoves  and 
bathrooms  with  odours  instead  of  the  more  com- 
monplace materials.  What  is  repulsive  is  the 
depraved  use  which  the  world  made  of  perfume. 
The  tunics  of  men,  their  baths,  beds,  horses,  rooms, 
streets,  servants,  even  their  food  smelt.  Caligula 
had  wasted  a  fortune  on  perfumes.  Nero  had  waded 
in  them.  Myrrh,  aloes,  and  cassia,  saffron  and 
cinnamon,  not  to  mention  others  equally  objection- 
able and  even  more  costly  ;  these  all  made  lite 
heavy  and  cloying,  turned  conceptions  of  wrong 
into  right,  made  the  unholy  adorable,  stained  the 
thoughts  and  depraved  the  mind,  just  as  M.  Huys- 
mans  (in  A  Rebours)  describes  what  he  succeeded  in 

doing  during  his  stay  at  Fontenay. 


258  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

Not  that  Rome  was  as  objectionable  as  Athens. 
There,  we  are  told  that  both  men  and  women 
painted  their  faces  with  white  lead,  their  eyelids 
with  kohl,  and  their  nails  with  henna ;  and  in  order 
to  draw  attention  to  the  depravity,  they  perfumed 
their  hair  with  marjoram,  rubbed  their  arms  with 
mint,  their  legs  with  ivy,  and  the  soles  of  their  feet 
with  baccaris.  In  Greece  this  idea  of  attention  to 
personal  beauty  was  a  perfect  cult  —  the  latest 
recipes  for  artificial  adornments  were  engraved  on 
tablets  and  exhibited  in  the  temples  of  Aesculapius, 
and,  this  done,  the  state  imposed  a  fine  for  a  slatternly 
appearance  ;  but  for  all  that  it  was  decadent  and 
nasty.  People,  of  course,  still  spend  money  on 
their  personal  appearance,  but  patchouli,  thank 
heaven  !  has  gone,  even  from  Piccadilly. 

The  Emperor's  fondness  for  fish  was  tempered 
by  its  rarity.  He  would  never  eat  of  its  living 
things  whilst  he  sojourned  near  the  sea  ;  he  would 
have  them  transported  to  the  immense  salt-water 
tanks  he  had  constructed  amongst  the  mountains 
and  in  the  interior  of  the  country,  both  for  their 
preservation  and  his  own  amusement.  We  are  told 
that  he  invented  a  method  of  fishing  in  which  oxen 
figured,  a  conceit  which  later  years  has  not  revived. 
First  in  history  he  conceived  of  sausages  made 
from  lampreys'  roes,  soft-shelled  oysters,  lobsters, 
'  and  crayfish,  and  fed  the  country  peasants  on  the 
same.  Indeed,  his  generosity  here,  as  in  Rome, 
was  unbounded,  the  chroniclers  relating  how  he 
would  throw  from  the  windows  as  many  dishes  as 
he  offered  to  his  own  guests  then  at  table.      There 


was  nothing  of  our  niggardly  idea  of  charily  here,  no 
notion  that  any  crusts  were  good  enough  for  the 
hungry.  His  dogs  were  fed  on  foie-gras,  his  horses 
on  grapes,  his  lions  on  pheasants  and  parroquets — 
an  unnecessary  and  unpleasant  waste  when  one 
knows  how  much  these  beasts  would  have  preferred 
a  more  ordinary  fare. 

His  fish  sauce  was  a  triumph  of  the  culinary  art, 
which  is  utterly  lost.  It  was  a  transparent  bluish- 
green,  the  counterpart  of  sea  water,  in  which  the 
fish  looked  alive  and  natural,  utterly  unlike  the 
ragged  ugliness  which  is  now  presented  for  our  con- 
sumption. So  famous  were  his  dishes  that  the 
pastrycooks  and  dairymen  of  the  day  were  wont 
to  reproduce  them  in  their  own  particular  wares, 
selling  the  same  as  imperial  affectations. 

The  menus  also  were  his  own  conception,  em- 
broidered on  the  tablecloth — not  the  mere  list  of 
dishes,  but  pictures  drawn  with  the  needle  of  the 
dishes  themselves — which,  of  course,  necessitated  a 
change  of  cloth  with  each  service.  He  first,  we  are 
told,  made  the  public  feasts,  as  well  as  private 
dinners,  great  and  magnificent.  Formerly  these 
feasts  had  been  of  a  military  simplicity.  Elagabalus 
could  not  see  why  even  political  guests  should  not 
enjoy  themselves  when  they  came  to  dine  with  him, 
and  served  them  with  hydrogarum,  the  then  last 
word  in  Sybaritic  enjoyment.  His  successor  Alex- 
ander thought  differently,  and  reverted  to  the  old 
order,  a  proceeding  which  pleased  no  one  save  the 

Elagabalus  was,  unfortunately,  tainted  with  what 

26o  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

is  perhaps  natural  in  young  people,  though  in 
elderly  plutocrats  is  an  acquired  vice,  that  of  overt 
snobbery.  It  is  recorded  by  more  than  one  of  his 
guests  that  he  would  often  ask  them  to  price  his 
dishes,  in  order  to  hear  an  excessive  value  sug- 
gested, remarking  that  great  cost  gave  a  good 
appetite,  especially  when  one  knew  that  dishes 
were  scarce  and  out  of  season.  Of  course,  it  was 
bad  form,  even  in  a  boy,  but  how  much  else  that 
happens  is  the  same  ?  There  are  other  things  in 
plenty  to  cavil  at.    ' 

It  was  not  by  food  alone  that  Elagabalus  drained 
the  treasury ;  he  had  other  ways  of  flattering  the 
sovereign  people  of  Rome.  The  spectacles  which 
he  gave  in  the  amphitheatre  were  unique.  Fancy 
80,000  people  on  ascending  galleries,  protected 
from  the  sun  by  a  canopy  of  spangled  silk,  an  arena 
three  acres  in  extent,  carpeted  with  sand,  vermilion, 
and  borax,  in  that  arena  were  naval  displays  on  lakes 
of  wine,  and  the  death  of  whole  menageries  of  Egyp- 
tian beasts  (in  one  show,  Herodian  tells  us,  fifty-one 
tigers  alone  were  killed).  There  were  chariot  races, 
in  which  not  only  horses,  but  also  stags,  lions,  tigers, 
dogs,  and  even  women  figured,  till  the  spectators 
showed  a  colossal  delight.  The  magnificence  of  the 
spectacle  almost  surpasses  belief:  from  below  came 
the  blare  of  a  thousand  brass  instruments,  and  from 
above  the  caresses  of  flutes,  while  the  air,  sweet  with 
flowers  and  perfume  (for  the  Emperor  had  provided 
saftVon  even  for  the  cloaks  of  the  crowd),  was  alive 
with  multicoloured  motes.  The  terraces  were  par- 
terres of  blending  hues,  when  into  that  splendour  a 


hundred  lions,  th(nr  tasselled  tails  sweeping  the 
sand,  entered  obliquely,  and  anon  a  rush  of  wild 
elephants,  attacked  on  either  side  ;  another  moment 
of  sheer  delight,  in  which  the  hunters  were  tossed 
upon  the  terraces,  tossed  back  again  by  the  specta- 
tors, and  trampled  to  death.  By  way  of  interlude, 
the  ring  was  peopled  with  acrobats,  who  flew  up  in 
the  air  like  birds,  and  formed  pyramids  together, 
much  in  the  fashion  that  we  know  them  to-day. 
There  was  a  troop  of  tamed  lions,  their  manes 
gilded,  that  walked  on  tight-ropes,  wrote  obscenities 
in  Greek,  and  danced  to  cymbals,  which  one  of 
them  played  ;  a  chase  of  ostriches  and  feats  of  horse- 
manship on  zebras  from  Madagascar.  The  int('r- 
lude  at  an  end,  the  sand  was  re-raked.  Then, 
preceded  by  the  pomp  of  lictors,  interminable  files 
of  gladiators  entered,  while  the  eyes  of  the  women 
lighted  and  glowed  ;  artistic  death  was  their  chiefest 
joy,  for  there  was  no  cowardice  in  the  arena.  The 
gladiators  fought  for  applause,  for  liberty,  for  death 
— fought  manfully,  skilfully,  terribly  too,  and 
received  the  point  of  the  sword  or  the  palm  ot 
victory  with  an  equally  unmoved  expression,  an 
unchanged  face.  It  was  a  magnificent  conception 
on  which  the  Romans,  or,  more  exactly,  the  Etrus- 
cans, their  predecessors,  had  devised  to  train  their 
children  for  war  and  allay  the  fear  of  blood.  It  had 
been  serviceable  indeed,  and  though  the  need  of  it 
had  gone,  the  spectacle  endured,  and,  enduring,  con- 
stituted the  chief  delight  of  the  Vestals  and  of 
Rome.  By  its  means  a  bankrupt  became  Consul, 
an    Emperor  beloved.       It  had  stayed   revolutions, 


because  it  was  felt  to  be  the  tax  of  the  proletariat 
on  the  rich.  Silver  and  bread  were  for  the  indi- 
vidual, but  these  things  were  for  the  crowd.  When 
evening  descended,  so  did  torches  and  the  Emperor 
to  take  chief  part  in  the  ballet  which  he  considered 
as  the  culminating  point  in  the  performance. 

In  a  robe,  immaterial  as  a  moonbeam,  his  eyelids 
darkened  with  antimony,  his  face  painted  in  imitation 
of  the  courtesans  who  sat  on  high  chairs  and  ogled 
passers-by  in  the  Suburra,  he  entered  the  arena, 
and  there,  to  the  incitement  of  crotals,  he  danced 
with  his  Syrians  before  the  multitude,  a  protecting 
claque  of  80,000  persons  toasting  the  performer 
with  the  magnificent  cry,  "  lo  Triumphe  !  "  what- 
ever they  thought  of  its  indecency.  Lampridius 
tells  us  of  his  importing  from  Egypt  those  little 
serpents,  known  under  the  name  of  "  good  genius," 
and  letting  them  loose  amongst  the  audience,  among 
whom  many  were  bitten,  many  killed,  in  the  stam- 
pede. It  was  quite  a  likely  prank  to  play — is  even 
heard  of  to-day  —  but  one  cannot  imagine  that 
Elagabalus  wanted  to  disperse  the  audience,  as 
his  biographer  suggests,  before  they  had  witnessed 
the  magnificence  which  he  had  prepared  for  their 
delectation.  It  would  have  been  too  foolish, 
especially  if  he  wanted  an  appreciative  reception  for 
his  own  turn. 

So  much  for  his  public  appearances.  Many  of 
his  private  pleasures  are  quite  repeatable,  though  all 
are  extravagant,  such  as  his  chariot  races  in  the 
palace  and  in  the  Gardens  of  Hope,  his  teams  of 
great   dogs   to  draw   him   from   place  to   place,   his 


naked  women  for  the  same  purpose,  or  when  he 
himself,  in  the  attributes  and  customary  undress 
of  Bacchus,  was  drawn  by  Hons,  tigers,  and  the 
female  sex.  In  driving,  Elagabalus  had  a  splendid 
nerve,  as  we  learn  from  the  record  of  his  chariot 
races  with  camels  and  elephants  even  over  the 
Vatican  and  its  tombs.  He  seems  to  have  imagined 
that  others  were  possessed  of  the  same  daring  and 
hardihood.  Witness  his  requests  to  guests  that  they 
should  drive  chariots,  to  which  were  harnessed  four 
wild  stags,  through  the  porticoes  in  front  of  his 
dining-rooms,  which  porticoes  were  strewn  thick  with 
gold  and  silver  dust,  because  he  could  not  get 
electrum.  Many  found  the  task  most  unpleasant, 
especially  if  they  were  portly,  or  Senators  whose 
pomposity  ought  to  have  put  such  antics  out  of 
the  question  ;  but  Elagabalus  was  no  respecter 
of  persons,  unless,  of  course,  they  were  young, 
beautiful,  and  full  of  lust ;  to  such  he  was  ever 
considerate,  whether  they  were  men  or  women. 
One  day,  because  they  pleased  him,  he  presented  to 
the  courtesans  and  procurers  of  the  city  the  whole 
supply  of  corn  for  a  year's  provision,  and  promised  a 
like  amount  to  those  dwelling  outside  the  walls. 
On  another  he  collected  the  cocottes  of  the  theatres 
and  circuses,  and,  having  harangued  them  as 
"companions  in  arms,"  presented  them  with  a 
soldier's  donative  of  three  pieces  of  gold,  saying, 
"  Tell  no  one  that  Antonine  has  given  you  this." 

Elagabalus  is  the  originator  of  lotteries,  which 
have  since  become  a  source  of  proht  to  European 
states.     There  was  one  for  the  people,  one  for  the 


comedians.  Of  course,  he  provided  the  prizes,  and 
there  does  not  seem  to  have  been  any  purchase 
of  tickets.  These  were  singular,  as  were  all  his  other 
gifts,  and  varied  from  i  lb.  of  beef  to  lOO  pieces 
of  gold  or  looo  of  silver. 

In  summer  he  had  the  audacity  to  erect  a  snow 
mountain  in  his  orchard,  in  order  that  cool  airs 
might  relieve  the  oppressiveness  of  Sol  in  Leone. 
Even  in  the  relief  of  natural  functions  he  was 
magnificent,  using  only  vases  of  gold,  onyx,  and 
myrrhin.  Whether  this  last  is  a  metal  or  sort  of 
agate  has  been  disputed,  but  Pliny  had  no  doubt  as 
to  its  extreme  worth.  He  tells  us  that  a  drinking 
cup  was  sold  for  70,000  sesterces,  and  a  sacrificial 
capis  for  1,000,000,  to  his  own  knowledge. 

The  progresses  of  Elagabalus  were  a  sight  that 
made  even  the  citizens  of  Rome  stare  open-mouthed. 
Nero  had  taken  a  train  of  500  carriages,  and  the 
boy  Emperor  was  not  to  be  outdone.  He  ordered 
a  following  of  600  at  a  time,  saying  that  the  King  of 
Persia  had  a  train  of  10,000  camels,  and  for  himself, 
his  numerous  courtesans,  procurers,  and  the  rest, 
whom  he  had  bought  and  freed,  all  richly  habited, 
could  not  be  accommodated  with  less,  wherein  he 
showed  a  certain  chivalry,  as  also  in  the  case  of  the 
very  famous  cocotte,  whom  he  had  bought  for  100,000 
sesterces,  and  then  relegated  to  perpetual  virginity. 

The  Syrian  astrologers  had  told  Elagabalus  that 
he  would  meet  with  a  violent  death,  which  information 
seems  in  no  way  to  have  disturbed  his  equanimity ; 
it  merely  added  to  his  extravagances,  in  that  he 
built   a  tower,    from   which  he   designed   to    throw 


himself,  when  his  hour  was  come,  on  to  a  pave- 
ment of  gold  encrusted  with  gems,  in  order  that 
men  might  say,  "  qualis  artifex  periit."  To  make 
assurance  doubly  sure,  he  carried  with  him  little 
cases  fashioned  in  emeralds  and  rubies,  containing 
deadly  poisons,  also  cords  of  purple  silk,  with  which 
he  might  strangle  himself  if  he  were  in  any  real 
trouble,  though  the  adulation  of  the  people  made 
it  doubtful  if  such  could  ever  happen.  Was  it  a 
wonderful  thing  that  the  people  loved  him  —  the 
originator  of  lotteries  where  no  one  but  the  Emperor 
was  the  loser,  the  distributor  of  an  incessant  shower 
of  tickets  that  were  exchangeable,  not  for  bread  or 
trivial  sums,  but  for  gems,  pictures,  slaves,  fortunes, 
ships,  villas,  and  estates  ?  Such  a  one  was  bound  to 
be  adored  ;  indeed,  his  lavishness  deified  him  in  the 
eyes  of  the  sovereign  people  of  Rome. 

There  is  one  record  of  wanton  waste  which 
Lampridius  has  laid  to  his  charge,  namely,  that 
of  sinking  laden  ships  in  the  harbours  in  order 
to  show  men  at  what  a  price  he  valued  his  wealth, 
that  it  could  pay  any  compensation,  could  stand  any 
strain.  It  is  a  foolish  and  criminal  fault  for  a 
statesman  to  squander  the  wealth  of  his  country, 
but  an  accusation  which  is  still  levelled  against  the 
statesmen  of  our  own  time,  and  that  not  infrequently. 
They  may  not  attempt  to  realise  the  greatness 
of  their  country  by  collecting  cobwebs  by  the  ton,  as 
Elagabalus  once  managed  to  do, saying  that  he  wished 
thus  to  realise  the  greatness  of  Rome,  but  they  are 
perfectly  capable  of  ordering  equally  unproductive 
labour  and  paying  for  it  at  an  enormous  price,  which 

266  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS         chap,  x 

is,  ethically  speaking,  much  the  same  thing.  The 
psychology  of  extravagance  has  not  yet  been 
examined,  so  we  are  still  free  to  condemn  what 
we  do  not  fully  understand.  Megalomania  we  all 
know  something  about  and  can  all  condemn  as 
experts.  It  was  Elagabalus'  success,  as  it  has 
tended  to  the  progress  of  other  equally  well-known 



One  of  the  main  causes  of  complaint  against  the 
Emperor  Marcus  Aurelius  Antoninus  was  his 
religion.  Lampridius  and  Xiphilinus  are  unani- 
mous in  their  condemnation  of  its  tendencies  and 
beliefs.  Into  these  it  is  unnecessary  to  enter  at 
greater  length  than  has  been  done  in  preceding 
chapters.  If  there  is  one  point  on  which  all  his 
biographers  are  fully  agreed,  it  is  that  the  Emperor 
was  pre-eminently  religious.  God  took  the  first 
place  in  his  calculations  and  designs. 

Had  he  been  a  private  person,  no  one  could 
have  objected  to  this  tendency.  In  general,  piety 
towards  the  Gods  has  been  commended  throughout 
the  world's  history.  It  is  only  when  a  man  occupies 
a  public  position  and  subordinates  his  civil  to  his 
religious  duties  that  the  world  is  apt  to  look  askance 
at  the  latter.  This  is  the  position  of  Elagabalus,  at 
least  in  part  ;  he  is  accused  of  neglecting  the 
business  of  the  state  for  the  sake  of  his  conscience. 
Other  sovereigns  have  been  likewise  accused,  and 
have  Iikev\ise  suffered  at  the  hands  of  a  world  even 
more   vitally   religious   than   were   the    Senate    and 




people  of  third-century  Rome.  Similar  instances 
may  be  found  not  far  from  home  which  have  perhaps 
even  less  justification,  when  we  consider  that  the 
cause  of  offence  here  was  ceremonies,  not  vital 

A  word  may  also  be  said  concerning  the  objects 
which  Antonine's  biographers  had  in  view  when 
they  condemned  what  we  should — at  first  sight — 
have  expected  them  to  have  praised  in  the 
Emperor's  life. 

As  we  have  already  pointed  out,  Constantine's 
determination  to  impose  Christianity  on  the  empire 
led  to  grave  opposition,  chiefly  from  the  adherents 
of  the  similarly  monotheistic  cult  of  Mithra,  a  cult 
which  was  certainly  identified  with  that  of  Elagabal, 
the  only  God.  It  was — if  on  that  account  alone — 
obviously  necessary  that,  not  only  the  opposing 
religion,  but  also  the  chief  exponent  of  that  worship, 
should  come  in  for  severe  censure  at  the  hands  of 
the  fourth-century  monotheism. 

As  one  reads  the  story  of  Antonine's  life,  one 
is  struck  not  so  much  by  the  record  of  his  perverse 
sexualities,  about  which  no  one  can  have  known 
anything  definite,  and  which,  even  if  the  reports  be 
true,  we  are  bound  to  regard  as  congenital,  in  the 
light  of  modern  research,  as  we  are  by  the  record  of 
his  religious  fanaticism.  This  trait  is,  and  in  all  pro- 
bability justly,  considered  to  be  reprehensible.  It 
is  not,  however,  restricted  to  the  Emperor  in 
question;  probably  everybody  has  come  across  it, 
in  one  form  or  another,  during  the  course  of  his 
life ;    some  have  even   suffered   under   its   potency. 

XI         RELIGION  OF  THE  EMPEROR     269 

Antonine  was,  as  we  have  said,  in  a  peculiar 
position  ;  he  was  young,  powerful,  and  extremely 
religious  ;  he  ascribed  the  success  of  his  house  to  the 
favour  of  his  God,  and  desired  to  make  some  return 
in  the  shape  of  coercing  men  to  that  God's  worship. 
To  this  Emperor  the  possession  of  supreme  power 
meant  limitless  possibilities  for  the  effecting  of 
his  scheme.  Further,  as  we  have  seen,  he  came  of 
a  religious  stock,  or  rather  of  a  family  whose 
traditions  were  bound  up  with  a  very  definite  form 
of  religious  worship,  which  is  generally  considered 
as  the  same  thing. 

The  origin  of  religion  is  a  much-disputed  point. 
Some  men  have  considered  that  the  source  of  all 
religion  is  fright ;  others  prefer  love  ;  both  of  which 
appeal  to  the  superstitious  instinct  inherent  in  man. 
It  may  be  that  these  instincts  breed  reverence,  fear, 
or  love  for  forces  outside  man's  control,  and  in- 
comprehensible to  him  ;  in  any  case,  these  forces 
were  the  first  things  to  be  deified  in  the  history  of 
religions,  and  took  their  precedence  in  the  natural 
order  of  their  mystery  or  usefulness,  becoming  a 
sort  of  aristocracy  of  talent,  with  a  supreme  head, 
the  God  of  Gods. 

In  process  of  time  the  older  religions  of  Greece 
and  Rome  gave  way  to  philosophies ;  and  the 
thinkers  having  reasoned  away  the  potency  of 
their  deities,  fought  against  what  they  considered 
a  decadent  and  sentimental,  not  to  say  a  baseless 
tradition,  with  all  the  aids  that  experience  gave 
them.  Then  it  was  that  the  signs,  portents,  and 
miracles   which   had   bolstered   up   the   faith  of  the 

270  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

ignorant,  which  had  kept  fright  and  superstition 
alive,  even  the  very  prophecies  and  revelations 
which  were  the  sacerdotal  proofs  of  inherent 
genuineness  became  either  natural  phenomena  or 
debasing  charlatanry,  amongst  men  who  knew  their 
origin  and  history,  or  had  learned  from  Archimedes 
the  principles  of  mathematics. 

Nevertheless,  in  imperial  Rome  the  atmosphere 
was  charged  with  the  marvellous,  very  much  as 
it  was  in  Northern  Europe  until  the  time  of  the 
Renaissance.  The  world  was  filled  with  prodigies, 
strange  Gods,  and  credulous  crowds.  The  occult 
sciences,  astrology,  magic  and  divinations,  all  had 
their  adepts,  and  commanded  the  respect  which 
kindred  practices  command  amongst  the  credulous 

But  the  philosophy  of  the  older  religions  was 
undoubtedly  hard  and  cold.  Courage,  moderation, 
and  honour  were  qualities  that  enforced  the  perma- 
nence of  the  state,  not  of  the  individual.  Men 
laboured  not  for  hope  of  reward,  but  for  the  sake  of 
duty  ;  they  knew  that  vice  was  part  of  the  universal 
order  of  things,  perhaps  an  error  of  the  understand- 
ing, certainly  an  error  which  it  was  idle  to  blame, 
yet  righteous  to  rectify.  But  the  older  religions  as 
they  had  developed  during  the  latter  days  of  the 
republic  were  far  from  satisfying  the  whole  aspira- 
tions of  man. 

The  mind  of  man  is  not  his  only  function,  he  has 
physical  parts  and  passions  as  well,  such  as  fright, 
superstition,  attractions,  antipathies,  and  sex.  Some 
men   were   incapable   of  thought,    few   were    single 

X.         RELIGION  OF  THE   EMPEROR     271 

in  aim,  and  there  was  a  craving,  it  may  be  quite 
irrational,  but  still  human,  which  longed  to  create, 
or  at  least  to  imagine,  something  higher  than  self, 
something  mightier  than  mind,  something  to  which 
the  irrational  and  traditional  side  of  man  could 
appeal;  and  so,  as  one  God  died,  a  newer  and  more 
mystical  personage  took  his  place.  Jupiter  had 
ceased  to  dominate  the  world  with  a  visible  potency, 
Mithra,  more  mystical,  more  sentimental,  took  his 
place  as  a  power,  so  intimately  connected  with 
man's  physical  parts  and  passions,  that  the  world 
of  philosophy,  which  dealt  with  the  body  through 
the  mind,  could  scarcely  touch  the  fringes  of  his 

There  was,  therefore,  in  Rome  at  the  beginning 
of  the  third  century  a.d.  a  party  of  men  strongly 
attached,  for  sentimental  or  neurotic  reasons,  to  one 
or  other  of  the  recently  imported  Eastern  creeds  ; 
but  there  was  also  a  large  party  of  conservatives 
whose  atheism  was  as  cool  and  detached  as  that  of 
Horace  ;  and  a  still  larger  party  of  ordinary  people 
whose  attachment  to  the  old  practices  of  Romati 
Polytheism  expressed  all  that  they  considered  either 
necessary  or  expedient,  from  the  point  of  view  of 
ordinary  piety.  But  in  each  case  the  religion  was 
subordinated  to  a  paramount  political,  not  to  an  essen- 
tially religious  life,  which  life  was  evolving,  as  we 
learn  from  nearly  all  authors,  towards  degenera- 
tion, despite  the  fact  that  culture  and  literature 
was  still  based  upon  the  philosophy  of  intellectuaj 

Unfortunately,  the  very  rule  which  had  made  for 

272  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

political  greatness  was  now  robbing  men  of  every 
liberating  interest,  was  leaving  society  sterile  and 
empty.  As  a  consequence  of  this,  each  generation 
was  becoming  less  wishful  to  think,  and  less  capable 
of  thought ;  not  that  the  intellect  of  Rome  had  by 
any  means  descended  to  that  ultimate  plane  of  intel- 
ligence from  which  it  was  ready  to  enslave  itself 
under  the  retrograde  tendencies  of  Eastern  theistic 
beliefs.  Rome,  the  mistress  of  the  world,  had  seen 
good  in  all  Gods  ;  she  had  acknowledged  and  in- 
cluded in  her  worship  the  philosophies  and  deities  of 
all  nations,  tribes,  and  tongues  ;  every  force,  natural, 
physical,  and  political,  was  represented  at  her  altars. 
Rome  was  comprehensively,  sceptically  Polytheist, 
when  to  her  palaces  flocked  the  engineers,  astrono- 
mers, and  philosophers  of  that  vast  empire.  It  was 
only  to  the  common  people,  possessed  as  they  were 
by  beliefs  in  non-human  powers,  in  beings  that  beset 
life  with  malignity,  that  the  restoration  of  cults 
and  ritual  commended  itself,  and  even  they  were 
eclectic  in  their  tastes  and  fancies. 

Despite  pulpit  learning,  we  know  that  Rome 
was  no  more  attracted  by  those  doctrines  of  the  uni- 
versal socialistic  brotherhood  which  had  emanated 
from  Nazareth,  than  she  was  by  the  system  of  the 
ecstatic  visionary  from  Tarsus,  who  was  destined — by 
a  more  systematic  and  regular  development  of  his 
revelations — to  capture  the  freedom  of  the  earlier 
intellectual  religions,  as  soon  as  the  world's  hoary 
wisdom,  having  lost  its  virility,  was  involved  in  the 
dotage  of  an  unreasoning  antiquity. 

In  the  long  run  we  know  that  the  mob  triumphed, 


and  that  every  religion  of  the  West  was  orientaHsed, 
every  superstition  and  neurotic  tendency  developed, 
and  philosophy  was  brought  to  its  knees  utterly 
debased,  until  its  function  was  merely  to  be  the 
apologist  of  all  that  superstition  taught  or  did.  For 
the  present,  rational  thinking  men  were  alive. 
When  they  died,  exclusive  monotheism  came, 
carrying  before  it,  like  a  flood,  the  greatness  of  the 
former  world.  But  the  issue  was  still  uncertain.  Had 
Elagabalus  lived  ;  had  the  beauty  and  impressive- 
ness  of  his  Semitic  ritual  made  its  way  ;  had  time 
been  given  for  men  to  grasp  his  idea  of  one  vast, 
beneficent,  divine  power,  into  the  empire  of  whose 
central  authority  men  might  escape  from  the  thousand 
and  one  petty  marauders  of  the  spirit  world,  they 
might  have  been  attracted  to  the  worship  of  life 
and  light  instead  of  enmeshed  by  the  seductive 
force  of  obscure  and  impossible  dogmas,  tempted 
by  the  bait  of  an  elusive  socialism  and  a  proble- 
matical futurity. 

It  was  not  that  Rome,  atheist  or  religious,  ob- 
jected to  the  worship  of  Baal.  She  had  her  own 
and  a  round  dozen  other  Jupiters,  as  men  conceived 
him  to  be,  and  was  quite  ready  to  include  him 
amongst  the  number.  The  trouble  was  that  rational 
thinking  men  could  not  bring  their  minds  to  con- 
ceive of  any  supreme  potency  in  the  world,  outside 
man  himself;  while  religious  persons  had  each  his 
own  particular  conceit  in  the  way  of  deities,  all 
of  which  the  new  Emperor,  with  more  zeal  than 
discretion,  proceeded  to  make  subject  to  his  own 
Lord's  will. 



But  there  was  obviously  more  than  mere  amalga- 
mation in  Antonine's  scheme.  We  have  already 
pointed  out  the  Emperor's  position  of  supremacy 
over  the  old  cults,  and  discussed  the  disintegrating 
tendency  of  the  mystical  and  independent  mono- 
theisms, which  was  already  apparent  even  in  the  city 
itself  The  danger  which  these  new  religions  im- 
ported into  political  life  lay  in  the  establishment  of 
an  imperium  over  the  souls  of  men,  which,  based  on 
superstitious  terrors  rather  than  on  any  appeal  to 
reason  or  logic,  claimed  an  authority  over  the  mind 
equal  to  that  of  the  State  over  the  persons  of  its 

The  main  attraction  of  these  forms  of  faith  lay 
in    their    ability    to    supply    men    with    a    personal 
and    spiritual    religion,     which,     being    free    from 
State  intervention,  was  able  to  incite  its  adherents 
to    rebellion,     against    any     policy    of     which    its 
priesthood    disapproved,   on   spiritual    or    even    on 
financial  grounds.     Statesmen  had  long  recognised 
the  danger,  and  were  obviously  attempting  to  cope 
with  the  new  forces.      Antonine's  proposal  was  one 
for   the   extension   of  his   jurisdiction   (as    Pontifex 
Maximus)  to  the  new  monotheisms,  by  the  amalga- 
mation of  these  with  the  older  worships  over  which 
his  authority  as  Pontifex  Maximus  was  unchallenged. 
If  he   had   succeeded   he   would    have   exerted   his 
,  headship  of  religion  in  much  the  same   fashion   as 
Elizabeth    Tudor — claiming   a  similar    headship  — 
exerted  hers  in  the  sixteenth  century.     This  policy 
meant  the  appointment  of  State  officials  endowed 
with     the    wealth,    titles,    and    a    portion    of    the 



vesture  of  those  old  prelates,  who  had  by  their 
traditions  and  claims  to  magical  powers,  coerced, 
and  indeed  still  coerce  the  minds  of  the  credulous 
to  the  disintegration  of  the  State.  Antonine  fore- 
shadowed what  Tudor  greatness  effected  ;  namely, 
the  erection  of  a  State  church,  whose  business  it 
was  to  replace  an  independent  priesthood  which 
fostered  fanaticism,  by  a  race  of  civil  servants  who 
would  restrain  and  modify  superstition,  turning  all 
dangerous  and  harmful  elements  in  the  religious  life 
into  useful  and  philanthropic  energies,  concerning 
whose  profit  it  would  take  an  anchorite  to  disagree. 

We  have  traced  the  steps  by  which  Antonine 
proceeded  to  carry  out  his  policy  of  amalgamation. 
The  erection  of  that  superb  and  gigantic  temple 
in  the  Xlth  region;  the  summer  residence  for 
his  God  near  the  Porta  Praenestina  ;  and  the  proces- 
sion, in  which  all  men  and  most  of  the  Gods  took 
part,  have  been  catalogued  already.  It  was,  how- 
ever, this  very  amalgamation  to  which  Rome,  atheist 
and  religious,  objected.  Antonine  could  have  done 
what  pleased  him  in  the  way  of  introducing  a  new 
worship ;  he  might  have  caused  all  men  to  assist  at 
his  ceremonies,  and  no  one  would  have  objected  ; 
but  to  desecrate  the  older  religions,  and  deprive 
them  of  their  treasured  possessions,  was  an  offence 
against  all  canons  of  Roman  taste. 

There  can  be  little  doubt  that  one  by  one  the 
temples  were  despoiled  of  their  chief  objects  of 
veneration  in  order  that  these  might  contribute  to 
Baal's  glory,  and  attract  more  worshippers  to  his 
shrine.       It    was    in    this    way   that    the     Emperor 


designed  to  extinguish  all  the  other  cults  in  the 
city,  and  so  leave  his  God  supreme  ;  but  persecution 
would  have  been  preferable  to  contempt.  Elaga- 
bal's  temple  was  indeed  a  perfect  museum  of  eccle- 
siastical relics,  all  ad  majorem  del  gloriam  ;  still  it 
did  not  attract,  because  it  was  contrary  to  the  whole 
spirit  of  the  time  ;  no  one  demanded  a  monotheistic 
creed,  and,  though  all  the  worships  of  the  city 
should  be  comprehended  in  that  of  Elagabal,  men 
could  not  raise  devotion  towards  an  amalgamation 
which,  they  felt,  was  neither  good  deity  nor  good 

Undoubtedly  the  Emperor  was  most  eager. 
Why  he  did  not  persecute  in  order  to  attain  his 
end  was  a  mystery,  until  men  understood  something 
of  his  psychology.  He  would  go  (according  to 
Lampridius)  to  any  lengths  of  personal  inconveni- 
ence in  order  that  he  might  further  his  plan,  but 
would  put  no  one  else  to  unnecessary  discomfort  or 
loss.  We  are  told  that  his  desire  to  obtain  the 
sacred  objects  from  the  temple  of  Cybele  led  him  to 
sacrifice  fat  bulls  to  that  Goddess,  with  his  own 
hands,  and,  when  that  was  not  enough  (as  the 
priests  proved  difficult),  that  he  submitted  himself 
to  their  ordination  (a  ceremony  which  included  cas- 
tration) in  order  that  he  might  possess  himself  of 
their  sacred  stone. 

Lampridius  has  been  understood  to  assert  this 
castration,  using  the  words  '' genitalia  devinxit^'  but, 
as  Professor  Robinson  Ellis  has  pointed  out  to  me, 
devinxit  usually  means  no  more  than  "tied  up." 
Aurelius  Victor,  being  later,  is  naturally  more  ex- 

XI         RELIGION  OF  THE  EMPEROR     277 

plicit.  1  le  says  ''  abscissis  genitalibus^'  but  despite 
his  fourth-century  statement,  there  is  considerable 
ground  for  doubt  as  to  whether  the  operation  actually 
took  place,  chiefly  on  account  of  the  records  which 
his  biographers  have  left  concerning  the  Emperor's 
later  proclivities — matrimony  and  the  like — in  which 
he  is  supposed  to  have  indulged  until  the  last  moment 
of  his  life.  And  it  would  certainly  have  been  a 
miserable  ending  to  a  life  of  pleasure,  as  he  under- 
stood the  meaning  of  the  word.  If  it  is  true,  it 
certainly  proves  a  zeal  for  the  Kingdom  of  Heaven's 
sake  which  we  are  scarcely  capable  of  understanding. 

Towards  idols  made  with  hands  Antonine  had 
no  attraction.  It  was  the  acquisition  of  stones  with 
a  claim  to  divinity  on  which  he  had  set  his  mind, 
even  (according  to  a  most  faulty  passage  in  Lam- 
pridius)  to  the  Laodicean  statue  of  Diana,  which 
Orestes  with  his  own  hands  had  placed  in  its  proper 
sanctuary.  These  he  made,  one  and  all,  servants  of 
the  only  God — some  chamberlains,  some  domestics. 
Early  Christianity  had  much  the  same  idea*  as 
Antonine  concerning  the  position  of  the  older  Gods, 
but,  with  a  singular  lack  of  perspicacity,  it  turned 
them  into  demons,  —  where  they  did  not  become 
saints, — and  by  so  doing  created  a  power  of  evil  out 
of  what  had  formerly  been  a  powerful  beneticence. 

Undoubtedly,  one  of  the  Emperor's  chief  mis- 
takes was  his  attempt  to  amalgamate  the  kindred 
worship  of  Jerusalem,  in  its  various  forms,  with  that 
of  the  Roman  deities,  and  even  though  his  circum- 
cision almost  certainly  belongs  to  the  period  when 
he  became  High  Priest  of  Elagabal  (the  period  when 



he  attained  to  puberty),  the  connection  of  this  cere- 
mony with  the  kindred  Jewish  observance  was  suffi- 
cient, in  the  Roman  mind,  to  brand  Antonine  as  a 
Hebrew  innovator.  The  same  odium  would  not, 
however,  have  been  attached  to  him  when  it  was 
reported  that  he  had  submitted  to  the  triune  baptism 
practised  by  various  of  the  Christian  sects  ;  since 
this  practice  was  well  known  to  the  Romans  on 
account  of  its  inclusion  amongst  the  ceremonies  at 
the  Mithraic  initiations.  The  ceremony,  therefore, 
would  only  become  unpopular  when  men  realised 
that  it  was  an  outward  and  visible  sign  of  their 
Emperor's  inclusion  of  the  Nazarene  sect  in  his 
grand  reunion  of  churches. 

Much  has  been  said  by  persons,  whose  business 
it  was  to  tind  causes  of  complaint,  against  the  foolish 
and  blasphemous  proposal  of  the  marriage  for  his 
God.  To  our  modern  notions  it  was  a  scheme 
quite  unworthy  of  the  great  work  the  Emperor  was 
inaugurating.  In  the  third  century  modern  notions 
of  religion  were  as  yet  unborn.  There  was  at  the 
time  many  a  divine  pair,  both  in  Rome  and  in  the 
provinces,  who  attracted  attention.  The  proposal 
was,  therefore,  neither  unusual  nor  sacrilegious.  It 
was  certainly  inadvisable  to  subordinate  the  chief 
cult  of  Rome  in  the  drastic  fashion  which  Antonine 
employed,  and  the  Emperor  paid  for  his  temerity ; 
'but  when  he  proposed  Urania  as  consort,  no  one 
objected,  and  it  was  only  the  return  of  the  Vestal  to 
connubial  felicity  that  re-aroused  the  annoyance 
which  his  compliance  with  Roman  sentiment  had 
pacified.    The  idea  of  matrimony  amongst  the  Gods 


was  quite  usual,  so  much  so,  that  the  expressions  of 
the  biographers  betray  wilful  ignorance,  not  only  of 
contemporary  religion,  but  also  of  the  Emperor's 
scheme  and  purpose. 

Concerning  the  magnificence  of  the  worship  all 
authorities  tell  us  something,  and  from  them  we 
can  gather  that,  accustomed  as  the  Romans  were  to 
a  severe  and  simple  ritual,  the  Syrian  worship, 
whether  on  the  Palatine  or  in  the  temple  at  Jerusa- 
lem, was  a  thing  for  fools  to  gaze  at  and  wise  men 
to  scorn.  A  few  grains  of  incense,  a  few  drops  of 
wine  in  libation,  a  perfect  pentameter  verse,  and 
the  dignified  Roman  passed  on.  Here  there  was 
one  long  succession  of  butchery,  hecatombs  of  oxen, 
and  runlets  of  the  finest  wines,  which,  together 
with  clouds  of  incense,  served  to  increase  the  feeling 
of  nausea  caused  by  the  smell  of  the  victims.  Nor 
was  this  all.  Round  and  round  the  countless  altars 
the  wonderful  painted  boy,  in  whose  eyes  fanaticism 
and  mystery  glowed,  led  men  and  women  through 
the  latest  and  most  approved  terpsichorean 
measures,  to  the  accompaniment  of  a  band  whose 
noise  recalls  that  of  Nebuchadnezzar  ;  if  there  be  any 
truth  in  either  record,  as  we  have  it.  The  psalms 
and  hymns  which  formed  part  of  the  worship  were 
equally  unusual  in  the  city  of  the  Caesars  ;  their  only 
place  was  in  the  Eastern  religions  which  gave  them 
birth,  because  such  a  display  of  barbaric  worship 
had  long  been  superseded  amongst  the  intellectual 
and  progressive  peoples  of  the  West.  Such  useless 
waste  of  life,  such  prodigality  of  movement,  music, 
and  colour,  was  but  little  in  accord  with  the  Western 



philosophy  of  religion,  and  it  was  with  a  sigh  for  his 
sanity  that  wise  men  escaped  from  the  orgy  in 
which  their  Emperor  was  taking  chief  part. 

It  was  all  so  freakish  that  men  might  have  looked 
and  listened  quietly,  if  the  High  Priest — in  accord- 
ance with  his  scheme  of  reform — had  not  desired 
the  assistance  of  his  great  officers  of  state  ;  natur- 
ally, these  men  objected  all  the  more  strongly 
because  they  were  perforce  to  profess  interest  in 
their  new  duties,  and  joyfully  spread  disaffection, 
once  they  were  amongst  the  conspirators  and  out 
of  the  Emperor's  hearing. 

Lampridius'  legend  of  Antonine's  human  sacrifices 
must  be  dealt  with  as  another  calumny.  He  says 
that  the  Emperor  used  to  sacrifice  young  boys  of 
the  best  families,  preferring  those  whose  parents 
were  alive,  and,  being  present,  would  be  most 
grieved  at  the  deed.  In  this  case  the  refutation  is 
scarcely  needed,  since  the  author  asserts  that  such  was 
the  custom  of  the  Syrian  worship,  whereas  it  is  now 
certain  that  Rome  had  caused  the  cessation  of  human 
sacrifices  long  before  the  second  century  amongst  all 
Semitic  peoples.  It  is  in  all  probability  the  same 
legend  which  was  attached  to  the  early  Christian 
mysteries,  and  with  even  less  reason,  for  while  the 
Christian  worship  was  in  secret,  and  so  might  lend 
itself  to  the  supposition  of  nefarious  practices,  that 
of  the  Sun  God  was  public  and  blatantly  open  before 
the  world,  following  a  well-known  and  approved 

No,  Antonine  may  have  been  mad,  but  there 
was    a   certain    method    in   his    madness,    and    this 


form  of  lunacy  would  only  have  alienated  the 
very  people  he  was  striving  so  hard  to  win. 
It  was  in  the  method  he  failed,  not  in  the  con- 
ception, for  monotheism  was  continually  gaining 
ground ;  Paganism  was  obviously  falling  asleep 
quite  gently  ;  Isis  was  giving  way  to  Mary,  apo- 
theosis to  canonisation,  and  saints  succeeding 
divinities.  Antonine,  with  the  true  Eastern  con- 
ception of  religion,  strove  to  impress  men  with  his 
vivid  monotheism  by  means  of  the  magnificence  of 
the  worship,  the  prodigal  expenditure  of  a  gorgeous 
pageant.  This  he  gave  the  world  right  royally,  but 
it  was  precisely  this  that  the  austere  Roman  could 
not  understand  was  meant  to  be  connected  with  the 
simple  philosophy  of  his  Western  religion.  Antonine 
thought  to  make  his  God  great  by  means  of  a  pom- 
pous show.  He  succeeded  in  presenting  him  as  a 
low  comedian  in  the  last  act  of  a  puerile  melodrama; 
unfortunately  not  the  first,  or  last,  deity  who  has 
been  thus  presented  before  the  eyes  of  an  aston- 
ished world. 

It  had  long  been  a  Roman  custom  to  commem- 
orate the  greatest  of  her  victories  by  the  erection 
of  gigantic  columns  in  the  forums  of  the  city ; 
Antonine  proposed  to  build  the  most  magnificent 
that  had  yet  greeted  human  eyes.  It  was  to  be  a 
memorial  to  the  triumph  of  the  Lord  over  the 
deities  of  chance  and  circumstance.  Its  summit, 
which  he  designed  should  be  reached  by  a  stairway 
inside,  was  to  support  the  great  meteorite.  Death 
intervened  to  spoil  the  plan  and  to  deprive  Rome 
of  a  monument  surpassing  in  grandeur  any  that  the 



city  should  ever  see.  Such  were  the  methods  by 
which  the  boy  strove  to  win  acceptance  for  Elagabal, 
and  through  him  for  the  great  monotheistic  prin- 
ciple in  religion.  It  must  be  clearly  understood 
that  the  religion  of  Emesa  was  in  no  sense  idola- 
trous. It  is  true  that  the  city  possessed  a  huge 
black  meteorite,  which  it  venerated  exceedingly, 
because  it  was  a  portion  of  the  being  of  its  God. 
In  shape,  we  are  told,  it  was  a  Phallus,  and  as  such 
was  the  symbol  of  fecund  life,  typifying  the  great 
force  of  light,  joy,  and  fruitfulness,  which  men  re- 
garded as  the  be-all  and  end-all  of  their  existence. 

Of  this  theory  in  religion  Marcus  Aurelius  An- 
toninus was  high  priest  and  chief  exponent,  and  even 
his  boy's  mind  could  see  the  superiority  of  life  to 
death,  of  the  supreme  beneficent  being  to  the  lesser 
deities  who  oppressed  other  peoples.  Certainly  he 
was  so  impressed,  and  resolved  to  spread  that 
worship  and  knowledge  by  means  of  the  vast  power 
which  resided  in  his  childish  hands  from  the  year  of 
grace  218. 

Little,  when  the  young  Emperor  undertook  the 
task  of  unifying  churches,  could  he  have  imagined  the 
magnitude  of  the  task,  or  the  reason  of  the  opposition. 
As  we  have  said,  this  opposition  came  from  the  fact 
that  an  entirely  different  system  of  religion  held  sway. 
To-day  we  would  call  the  Roman  system  natural 
'religion  and  Antonine's  conception  dogmatic  truth. 
He  ascribed  too  much  to  his  God,  which  is  no  un- 
common failing  amongst  the  credulous  ;  probably  he 
claimed  a  revelation  from  on  high,  and  was  inclined 
to  consign  those  who  disagreed   with  him   to  that 


special  limbo  which  the  ignorant  have  reserved  for 
all  those  who  make  them  look  foolish,  for  all  that 
spells  truth  contrary  to  their  own  limited  imaginings  ; 
if  so,  he  would  not  have  been  unusual.  The  genius 
of  natural  religion  is  that  it  is  comprehensive,  toler- 
ant, righteous  and  just.  It  has  no  dogma  save  the 
individual  experience  of  each.  The  genius  of 
dogmatic  religion  lies  in  the  assumption  to  itself  of 
absolute  exclusiveness  ;  it  alone  contains  truth,  and 
in  its  later  editions,  finality  as  well.  Whether 
Antonine's  form  included  this  latter  pretension  we 
do  not  know,  certainly  it  claimed  what  no  Roman 
thinker  could  accord  to  any  faith  under  the  sun — the 
proposition  that  God  was  one  and  God  was  supreme. 
The  Roman  had  been  bred  on  Pyrrho,  Epicurus, 
Lucretius,  and  Cicero,  and  was  more  inclined  to 
postulate  that  God  was  the  cosmic  entity  of  spirit, 
something  as  potent  as,  if  not  analogous  to,  the  entity 
of  electricity  in  modern  science.  He  had  no  relations 
with  the  older  deities  who  had  made  life  terrible  by 
their  persecutions  of  the  human  race,  and  had  no 
desire  to  submit  himself  again  to  a  system  which 
would  erect  fright  into  yet  another  national  deity. 
He  had  long  since  grown  weary  of  trying  to  pro- 
pitiate infinity,  and  now  understood  that  he  might 
as  well  sacrifice  to  the  animals  in  the  Zoological 
Gardens,  in  the  hope  of  staying  their  hunger,  as 
make  oblation  to  the  deities  in  the  expectation  of 
a  return  in  kind. 

This  was  no  new  struggle  that  Antonine  pro- 
posed to  inaugurate  in  the  city  of  Rome.  It  is 
the  contest  between  rationalism   and  dogma  when 

284  LIFE  OF  ELAGABALUS  chap. 

pushed  to  its  logical  conclusion.  Doubtless  there 
is  much  to  be  said  on  both  sides ;  certainly 
much  has  been  written  and  more  has  been  said 
during  the  history  of  civilisation.  The  rationalists 
have  set  it  forth  as  the  struggle  between  ignor- 
ance and  reason  ;  the  dogmatists  as  that  between 
good  and  evil ;  certainly  it  was  not  a  struggle  on 
which  Antonine  was  either  old  enough  or  wise 
enough  to  lay  down  any  definite  line  of  truth 
for  the  future  guidance  of  the  world.  Unfortun- 
ately, this  was  just  what  he  attempted  to  do. 
He  knew  that  the  national  deity  of  every  nation 
under  heaven  was  fright,  and  forgot  that  its  anti- 
thesis was  truth.  He  knew  that  fright  was  bound 
to  predominate  ;  that  men  would  continue  to  pay 
their  worship  as  they  paid  their  taxes,  lest  a  worse 
thing  should  happen  to  them.  It  had  been  the 
same  in  Homer's  day.  Men  had  been  brought  up 
to  fright,  and  as  one  God  died  they  demanded 
another.  The  Prophets  had  given  men  Gods, 
laughing  the  while  at  the  divinities  they  created, 
because  they  believed  as  little  in  the  sacerdotal 
fables  as  Tennyson  did  in  the  phantom  idylls  of 
Arthurian  romance. 

The  point  is,  that  what  the  mass  of  men  demand 
they  will  get.  It  is  the  usual  law  of  supply  and 
demand,  where  the  man  who  can  increase  the 
'demand  and  satisfy  it  to  any  extent  is  the  successful 
founder  of  a  new  religion.  This  is  undoubtedly'the 
business  of  the  sacerdotal  caste  in  every  generation, 
and  their  success  is  assured  as  long  as  they  are 
capable  of  increasing  the  supply,  while  they  whet  the 



demand.  They  fail  when  some  one  else  appeals  to 
popular  imagination  as  more  mysterious,  or  more 

Now,  Antonine  seemed  to  think  that  mere 
dictation  of  what  was  to  himself  obvious  should  be 
enough  to  give  his  God  a  start,  and,  that  done,  all 
men  would  discover  the  vital  attraction  for  them- 
selves. Perhaps  he  was  right ;  stranger  things  had 
happened  before  his  day,  and  were  to  happen  not 
long  afterwards ;  we  can  never  know,  as  the  system 
had  no  more  time  for  a  fair  trial  than  had  that  of 
Constantine's  successor  Julian. 

For  the  moment  Rome  was  bored  with  all 
Gods ;  they  had  found  them  so  cruel,  vindictive, 
and  malignant  that  the  citizens  had  got  irritated 
and  sceptical,  had  left  their  deities  feeling  that 
already  for  too  long  time  had  blood  and  treasure 
been  spent  without  avail.  Now  at  last,  men  said, 
"dread  has  vanished  and  in  its  place  is  the  ideal." 
Evemerus  had  asserted  that  the  Gods  were  just 
ordinary  bullies  who  would  cringe  if  men  stood  up 
to  them,  and  even  the  lower  classes  had  agreed 
with  him. 

This,  Antonine  felt,  was  a  deplorable  state  of 
affairs — rank  atheism  if  not  something  worse.  He 
knew  the  potency  of  his  God,  and  desired,  by  gentle 
means,  to  set  it  forth  to  others  that  they  too  might 
believe.  Unfortunately,  no  one  desired  belief,  and 
he  had  to  tight  against  rationalism  as  well  as 
convention.  The  Romans  were  not  yet  tired  of 
their  chase  after  impossible  delights ;  when  they 
were,  another  dogma  presented  itself,  and  as  often 



as  not  it  was  accepted,  as  being  the  line  of  least 

If  Antonine  had  given  them  what  Julian  did,  his 
success  would  have  been  assured.  Such  was  philo- 
sophy, freedom,  and  beauty  under  the  guise  of  a 
God  whose  existence  he  admitted,  but  whose  inter- 
vention he  denied.  Antonine  was  not  Julian  ;  he 
was  an  Eastern  monotheist,  far  nearer  to  the  worship 
and  doctrines  of  Jehovah  than  to  those  of  any  Western 
mode  of  thought.  He  could  not  understand  the 
deification  of  attributes,  because  he  wanted  some- 
thing more  tangible,  real,  and  superstitious,  some- 
thing that  appealed  to  his  neurotic  nature  and 
erotic  passions. 

Thus  it  is  that  his  vain  efforts  to  unite  all 
worship,  all  religions  in  that  dedicated  to  Deus 
Solus  are  derided,  as  well  by  the  monotheistic 
Hebrew  as  by  the  tritheistic  Christian.  His  fault 
lay  in  the  fact  that  he  was  too  young  for  the  work, 
too  unaccustomed  to  the  circuitous  and  mole-like 
burrowings  by  which  a  religion  captures  society. 
But  the  scheme  in  itself  showed  purpose  and  a  pre- 
cocious propensity  for  the  mysterious,  unnatural  and 
unhealthy  in  a  child  of  his  age. 

Had  Antonine  been  born  in  the  twentieth  instead 
of  the  third  century  of  this  era,  had  he  enjoyed  the 
advantages  of  a  modern  education,  he  would  have 
learned  that  religion  and  unusual  propensities  are 
the  last  things  a  gentleman  is  expected  to  parade 
before  the  world.  Further,  he  would  have  certainly 
emerged  from  the  training — which  though  drastic  is 
certainly     most     salutary — with     his     waywardness 


curbed,  his  mind  and  will  strengthened,  his  lithe 
and  graceful  body  healthy  and  ht  to  bear  the 
fatigues  and  responsibilities  which  life  was  going  to 
lay  upon  his  splendid  shoulders.  Unfortunately  for 
him,  he  was  a  Syrian  with  wonderful  eyes  and  a 
mystical  temperament,  and  was  born  at  a  time  when 
the  monarch's  wayward  will  was  a  law  unto  himself 
and  all  the  world  besides  ;  yet  despite  these  draw- 
backs, with  so  many  of  the  elements  of  success  to 
hand,  he  might  have  triumphed,  if  the  usual  con- 
spirators had  not  been  at  work.  "  Rome  was  still 
mistress  of  the  world  though  she  was  growing  very 
old.  A  few  more  years  and  the  Earth's  new 
children  fell  upon  her ;  then  the  universe  was 
startled  by  the  uproar  of  her  agony.  Then  and  not 
till  then,  where  the  thunderbolt  had  gleamed  did  the 
emaciated  figure  of  the  crucifix  appear,  and  upon  the 
shoulders  of  a  prelate  descended  the  purple  which 
had  dazzled  the  world." 



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Aegae  in  Cilicia,  Macrinus  retires  to, 

Aemilian    Bridge,    Antonine's    body 

thrown  from,  169,  189 

Aeneas,  129 

Aesculapius,  258 

African  inscriptions  erase  Severi 
Nepos,  199 

Agiippina,  121 

Alexander  of  Macedon,  his  connection 
with  Alexander  Severus,  144 

Alexander  Severus,  or  Alexianus,  8, 
14,  18,  22,  38,  40,  54,  123;  de- 
scription and  career  to  Antonine's 
death,  136-72;  not  priest  of 
Elagabal,  174  ;  liberality  at  his 
adoption,  1S9  ;  date  of  accession, 
193  ;  date  of  tribunicial  renewal, 
196  ;  substitutes  his  name  for  that 
of  Antonine,  199  ;  stupidity,  205  ; 
abolishes  mixed  bathing,  245  ;  on 
public  feasts,  259 

Alexandria,  Bassianus'  legates  badly 
received  at,  57,  73 

Ammianus  Marccllinus,  on  the  birth- 
place of  Bassianus,  35 

Annia  Faustina,  marriage  with 
Antonine,  134;  divorce  mooted, 
150  ;  divorced,  178  ;  compared  with 
Bathsheba,  221  ;  her  genealogy, 
222  ;  age  and  position,  223  ;  reasons 
against  the  divorce,  224 

Antinous  and  Hadrian,  231 

Antioch,  Origen  goes  to,  20  ;  Mac- 
rinus at,  25,  41,  48;  news  of 
rising  reaches,  56 ;  distance  between 

Antioch  to  Emesa,  60 ;  coin  of 
Diadumenianus,  Emperor,  65 ;  Mac- 
rinus retires  to,  68  ;  Macrinus  leaves 
for  Rome,  72 ;  Antonine  arrive* 
at,  77 

Antiochianus,  154 

Antoninus  Pius,  5  ;  first  Roman  coins 
of  Emesa,  26 

Antony,  26 

Apamea,  26,  34,  63  ;  Macrinus  goes 
to,  and  declares  Diadumenianus 
Caesar  at,  67  ;  Antonine  at,  139 

Aphrodite  -  Adonis,  compared  with 
Elagabal-Urania,  175 

Apicius,  253 

Apollo  and  his  loves,  234 

Apollonius  of  Tyana,  31 

Appia,  Lex,  121 

Aquilia  Severa,  matrimony  with  Em- 
peror discussed,  130;  duration  of 
marriage,  132  ;  return  to  Emperor, 
183;  position  discussed,  189,  208, 
211  ;  appearance,  214;  date  of 
marriage,  216  ;  date  of  divorce, 
218  ;  returns  as  Empress,  224 

Area,  Alexander's  birthplace,  144 

Archelais,  death -place  of  Macrinus, 

Archimedes,  270 
Aristomachus,    the   standard  -  bearer, 

Aristotle,  quoted,  85 
Arnobius,  on  I'hallic  worship,  230 
Arria  Fadilla,  grandmother  of  Annia 

Faustina,  222 
Arrianus,  Herodian,  9 




Artabanus,  22,    43  ;    Diadumenianus 

sent  to,  72 
Arvalium,  CoUegio  Fratrum,  meet  to 

elect  Elagabalus,  68  ;  temporizing 

policy,  81 
"Assyrian,    the,"    Xiphilinus'    name 

for  Antonine,  95 
Attila,  244 
Augustan  Legion,  absorbs  3rd  Gallic 

Legion  on  account  of  this  latter's 

revolt,  89 
Augustus,    23,    26  ;    compared    with 

Antonine,  84  ;  influence  in  Rome, 

104,  203 
Aurelia    Sabina,    mother    of    Annia 

Faustina,  222 
Aurelius  Celsus,  captor  of  Macrinus,  74 
Aurelius  Eubulus,  Chancellor  of  Ex- 
chequer, 170 
Aurelius  Fabianus,  176 
Avitus,     Julius,     husband     of    Julia 

Maesa,  32 

Barak  compared  with  Gannys,  70 
Barrachinus  on  Gens  Cornelia,  205 
Bassianus,  Julius,  27 
Bathsheba,    compared    with     Annia 

Faustina,  221 
Baumeister,  on  site  of  Eliogabalium, 


Bayle,  dictionary  of,  31 

Becker,  4 

Belos,  oracles,  at  Apamea,  26 

Bertrand,  on  Gens  Cornelia,  205 

Bloch  cited,  234 

Boehme  on  Dexippus,  9 

Boni,  Commendatore,  on  Elagabal 
shrine,  132 

Bonus  Accursius,  4,  8 

Borghese,  133 

Borghese  Collection,  209 

'Bylus,  centre  of  worship  of  Aphrodite- 
Adonis,  175 

Bythinia,  Macrinus'  flight  through,  73 

Byzantium,  74 

Caecilius  Aristo,  Governor  of  Nico- 
media,  73 

Caesar,  Julius,  on  divorce,  224  ;  his 
sexual  condition,  23S 

Caius  Caligula,  23,  76,  186 ;  prodi- 
galities, 184  ;  marriages,  203  ;  as 
a  host,  236 ;  his  perfumes,  257 

Capitolinus,  3,  loi 

Cappadocia,  Macrinus  flies  through, 


Caracalla,  5  ;  birth  of,  29 ;  and 
Soaemias,  33  •  36 ;  and  Julia 
Mamea,  38  ;  in  Mesopotamia,  41  ; 
his  murder,  43  ;  soldiers  compare 
him  with  Macrinus,  47  ;  Bassianus 
accepted  as  heir  of,  54  ;  conquered 
cities,  61,  76,  77  ;  Antonine 
promises  Caracalla's  privileges  to 
soldiers,  84 ;  baths  of,  finished, 
129 ;  his  paternity  denied  for 
Antonine  and  affirmed  for  Alex- 
ander, 158;  liberalities,  190;  date 
of  tribunicial  renewal,  196  ;  Cara- 
calla's influence  on  morals,  203  ; 
Vestals,  214  ;  uses  Pomponius 
Bassus,  219  ;  his  severity  to  his 
mother,  221  ;  his  system  of  in- 
formers not  re-established,  243; 
introduces  Persian  tiara,  249 

Casaubon,  4 

Cassius,  Avidius,  10 

Castinus,  90 

Chalcedon,  Macrinus  taken  at,  74 

Charrae,  42 

Cheyne  quoted,  97 

Christ,  Pauline  theories  concerning, 
19  ;  and  Apollonius,  31  ;  menaced 
by  Antonine's  claim,  99,  114 

Christian  religion,  persecuting  ten- 
dencies, I,  98  ;  unpopular  in  Rome, 
118;  amalgamated  with  that  of 
Elagabal,  278  ;  human  sacrifices, 

Chronicle,  Imperial,  on  length  of 
reign,  13,  191 

Cicero,  26,  213 ;  on  immortality, 
224  ;  on  divorce,  283 

Claudius  Attalus,  90 

Claudius  Censor,  dismissed  from 
office,  179 



Claudius,  Emperor,  159,  178;  com- 
pared with  Macrinus,  76 ;  and 
Vestals,  214 

Clement  \  II.,  131 

Clodius,  106 

Cn.  Claudius  Severus,  grandfather  of 
Annia  Faustina,  222 

Cohen,  21,  61  ;  on  Antonine's  illness, 
94  ;  on  the  date  of  the  procession, 
174 ;  on  number  of  liberalities, 
190  ;  on  irregular  coins,  195 

Commodus,  -5,  26,  76,  159,  1S4, 

Constantine,  Emperor,  orders  life  of 
Elagabalus,  3,11;  reasons  for  this 
order,  17  ;  and  Christ,  114,  187  ; 
and  the  new  Monotheism,  214, 
228 ;  opposed  by  Mithras,  268  ; 
mentioned,  285 

Constantius,  10 

Consularia  Coustautinopolitaua,  93 

Cordus,  Aelius  Junius,  6 

Cornelia,  family  discussed,  205 

Cornihcia  family,  ancestors  of  Annia 
Faustina,  222 

Corpus  Domini  procession,  compared 
with  Elagabal  procession,  176 

Croce,  Church  of  Sta.,  site  of  summer 
temple,  113 

Cumont,  114;  quoted,  133 

Cybele,  Antonine  priest  of,  117; 
identified  with  Urania,  133  ;  priests 
castrated,  238  ;  Elagabalus  or- 
dained to  this  priesthood,  276 

Cyzicus,  port  of  Nicomedia,  89 

Czwalina,  4,  9 

Dacia,  104 

David,  compared  with  Antonine,  221  ; 
and  Jonathan,  234 

Deborah,  70 

Dessau,  attacks  authenticity  ol  Scrip- 
tores,  10;  attacks  Wolfflin,  13 

Dexippus,  9 

Diana,  identified  with  Urania,  133; 
the  Lainlirean  statue  of,  277 

Digest  xxix. ,  206 

Diocletian,   12,  105 

Dion  Cassias,  character  of  his  work 
and  his  appointments,  7  ;  Maesa's 
influence  on,  8  ;  (juoled,  19,  27,  28, 
31  ;  on  Sextus  Varius  Marcellus, 
33  ;  on  date  of  Bassianus'  birth, 
35  ;  on  Gessianus  Marcianus,  38  ; 
on  the  date  of  the  proclamation, 
55  ;  on  the  journey  to  the  camp, 
56 ;  on  battle  of  Immae,  70 ;  on 
Antonine's  entry  into  Antioch,  77  ; 
on  Antonine's  Consulate,  82  ;  on 
pretenders,  88  ;  on  length  of  reign, 
107  ;  on  Antonine's  character,  126  ; 
on  duration  of  second  marriage, 
132  ;  on  Urania's  dowry,  134  ;  on 
Seius  Carus,  139;  on  Antonine's 
love  of  Alexander,  142  ;  on  Alex- 
ander's name,  144  ;  on  plot  against 
Alexander,  152;  discrepancies  with 
Lampridius'  stories,  155;  on 
Maesa's  hatred  of  Antonine,  157  ; 
on  other  plots  to  destroy  Alex- 
ander, 162  ;  on  Antonine's  murder, 
166  ;  eliminates  Maesaand  Mamaea 
from  the  murder,  170 ;  on  date 
of  murder,  191  :  on  duration  of 
Aquilia's  marriage,  218  ;  on  execu- 
tions, 220 ;  on  Annia  Faustina's 
marriage,  221  ;  on  the  nameless 
wives,    224  ;    on    Hierocles,    238, 

Dirkscn,  4 
Divorce  considered,   204 ;    mediaeval 

privilege,  210 
Dodwell,  4 

Domaszewski  quoted,  34,  175 
Domitian,    23,    76,     159,    178;    and 

Vestals,  214:  and  feasts,  236 
Drake,  on  Caracalla's  Ufe,  13 
Dreinhoefer,  6 
Duruy,  21,  92  ;  on  Alexander  Severus, 


Eckhel,  21,  26;  on  the  number  of 
Soacmia's  children,  34  ;  on  date  of 
Cornelia  Paula's  divorce,  126 ;  on 
number  of  lil>eralities,  190  ;  on  the 
tribunicial  renewal,  194  ;  on  Annia 



Faustina's  genealogy,  222 :  on  her 
age,  223 
Egbert,  on  tribunicial  renewals,  196 
Elah-Gabal,  monarchy,  25 ;  Bassi- 
anus  becomes  High  Priest  of,  50  ; 
portents  of,  54 ;  accompanies  the 
Emperor,  91  ;  occupies  Temple  of 
Faustina  on  Mount  Taurus,  92  ;  his 
worship  decreed  to  be  first,  100 ; 
position  in  Rome,  114;  shrine  in 
Forum,  132  ;  second  marriage,  133  ; 
and  Alexander's  adoption,  143 ; 
procession,  174;  return  to  Emesa, 
174 ;  analogy  with  use  of  name 
Jehovah,  185  ;  regarded  as  another 
Jupiter,  189,  273  ;  amalgamation 
unpopular,  275  ;  worship  not 
idolatrous,  287 

Elephantis  and  Parrhasius,  compared 
with  Elagabalus,  228 

Eliogabahum,  site  of,  92,  112  ;  sacred 
fire  taken  to,  130 ;  date  of  com- 
pletion, 174  ;  relics  taken  to,  275, 

Elizabeth,  Queen,  compared  with 
Julia  Pia,  31  ;  her  ecclesiastical 
headship  same  as  that  of  Emperor, 

Ellis,  Prof.  Robinson,  quoted,  276 

Emesa,  25,  26,  100,  113,  231,  246; 
reputed  birthplace  of  Bassianus, 
36 ;  Maesa  and  family  return  to, 
45-6  ;  Julian's  battle  at,  60 ;  the 
god  returns  to,  174 

Epagathos,  Diadumenianus  entrusted 
to,  72 

Epicurus,  283 

Eribolus,  Macrinus  embarks  from,  73 

Eusebius,  20 

Eutropius,  II,  19  ;  on  length  of  reign 
in  Rome,   107,  192  ;  on  entrj'  into 

*    the  city,  108 

Eutychianus  persuades  the  soldiers, 
52 ;  takes  Bassianus  to  the  camp, 
56 ;  sends  Julianus'  head  to  Apamea, 
65  ;  position  in  State  discussed,  80  ; 
compared  with  Gannys,  86 ;  City 
Praefect,    iii;   Consul,    129;  City 

Praefect,  second  time,  133  ;  Prae- 
torian Praefect,  169 ;  spared  from 
the  murders,  171  ;  epitome  of 
offices,  179  ;  and  Julius  Paulus,  208 
Evemerus  quoted,  285 

Fabius  Agrippinus,  90 

Fabius  Gurgis,  249 

Fasti  Romani  (Clinton),  on  tribunicial 

renewal,  195 
Faustina,  28 
Flavian     amphitheatre     restored     by 

Antonine,  128 
Forel  cited,  234 
Forquet  de  Dome,  21  ;  on  Macrinus, 

48 ;    on  Gannys,   loi  ;     on  Anto- 

nine's  nature,  127 
Friedlander,  on  distance  of  Macrinus' 

flight,  73  ;  on  Senaculum,  121 
Froelich,  26 
Fulvius   Diogenianus,    on    Macrinus, 

58  ;  Praefect  of  Rome,  170 

Galatia,  Macrinus  flies  through,  73 

Galen,  31 

Gallicanus,  3 

Gallic  Legion,  3rd,  disloyal  to  Anto- 
nine and  disbanded,  89 

Gannys,  53  ;  compared  with  Gideon, 
70 ;  compared  with  Eutychianus, 
86 ;  murder  of,  loi  ;  reasons  for 
his  death,  233 

Gellius  Maximus,  a  pretender,  89 

Geta,  168,  196 

Giambelli,  on  Dion  Cassius,  8 ;  on 
sources  of  Dion  and  Herodian,  9 

Gordius  or  Cordus,  125,  156;  dis- 
missed from  office,  179 

Gratus,  Consul  a.d.  221,  195 

Groebe,  on  date  of  Antonine's 
murder,  191 

Gulick,  on  Christian  tendencies,  242 

Hadrian,  5,  229  :  influence  on  morals, 
203  ;  and  Antinous,  231  ;  abolishes 
mixed  bathing,  245 

Haupt,  on  Greek  sources  of  Scrip- 
tores,  7 



Hebrew  religion,  unpopularity  of, 
118  ;  barbaric,  279 

Heer,  6,  13  ;  on  Commodus,  15 

Heliogabalus,  Lanipridius'  name  for 
the  Emperor,  185 

Henzen,  on  the  Arval  Brothers,  68 

Hcrakles,  his  friendships,  234 

Hercules,  inscription  to,  175 

Herod,  kingship  compared  with  that 
of  Emesan  dynasty,  26 

Herodian,  6,  8,  19,  32,  42  ;  on  date 
of  Bassianus'  birth,  35 ;  on  the 
worship  at  Emesa,  50  ;  on  the 
journey  to  the  camp,  56  ;  on  the 
battle  of  Immae,  70 ;  on  Maesa's 
jKisition,  78 ;  on  length  of  An- 
tonine's  stay  in  Antioch,  91  ; 
Elagabalus'  portrait  sent  to  Senate, 
99 ;  on  entr)-  into  the  city,  1 10  ;  on 
Antonine's  character,  126  ;  on  dura- 
tion of  second  marriage,  132  ;  on 
Urania's  dowrj-,  134  ;  on  corrup- 
tion of  the  guards,  135  ;  on  Alex- 
ander's age,  142  ;  on  date  of 
adoption,  145  ;  does  not  mention 
Antonine's  plot  against  Alexander, 
152  ;  on  the  disowning  of  Alex- 
ander, 158  ;  on  Antonine's  murder, 
166 ;  on  the  cortege  to  the  camp, 
170;  on  the  liberalities,  176;  on 
duration  of  Aquilia's  marriage, 
218 ;  on  Elagabalus'  pastimes, 
247  ;  on  his  ostentation,  249 

Hierocles,  marriage  with  Elagabalus, 
126,  203  ;  dismissal  demanded  and 
refused,  156;  killed  with  Antonine, 
170;  origin  and  character,  239 

Homs  or  Hems,  modern  name  of 
Emesa,  24 

Horace,  his  atheism,  271 

Huysmans,  quoted,  257 

Hyacinth  and  Apollo,  234 

Hydatius,  93 

Hylas  and  Herakles,  234 

lamblicus,  26,  27 

lambhcus,  the  philosopher,  on  Phal- 
licism,  230 

lambulus,  187 

Immae  or  P'mma,  battle  of,  69 

Ishtar-Tammuz,  parallel  procession  to 

that  of  Elagabal,  175 
Isidore,  127 
Isis,  2,  96  ;  popularity  in  Rome,  117; 

gives  way  to  Mary,  281 
Itinera  Hierosolymitana,  73 

Jehovah,  compared  with  Baal,  50, 
96  ;  analog}-  with  use  of  name  Ela- 
gabal, 185  ;  character  of  worship, 
213;  amalgamated  with  Elagabal, 
277  ;  akin  to  Elagabal,  286 

Jerome,  on  Senaculum,  121 

John  of  Antioch,  20 

Jonathan  and  David,  234 

Jordanis,  20 

Julia  Cornelia  Paula,  marriage  with 
Antonine,  ill  ;  divorced,  126, 
129;  history,  205;  reasons  for  the 
marriage,  206 ;  age,  209  ;  date  of 
divorce,  209 

Julia  Domna  Pia,  20,  27  ;  married  to 
Septimius  Severus,  29 ;  her  titles, 
30 ;  compared  with  Mamaea,  39, 
40 ;  Secretary  of  State,  41  ;  after 
Caracalla's  death,  43  ;  her  suicide, 

Julianus,  on  birthplace  of  Bassianus, 

Julianus,    Emperor,    5  ;   deposed    by 

Pomponius  Bassus,  219 
Julianus,  Ulpius,  sent  by  Macrinus  to 

Emesa,  58  ;  defeat  of,  60-62 
Julius    Paulus,    21,    31,     III,     164; 

history,  205 ;  and  Eutychianus,  20S  ; 

banishment  discussed,  209 
Jupiter  Capitolinus,  to  serve  Elagabal, 

97  ;  Eliogabalium  reconsecrated  to, 

174  ;  gives  place  to  Mithra,  271 
Juvenal,  106  ;  on  morals,  204 

Klebs,  10,  II 

Kornemann,  on  lives  from  Hadrian  to 

Alexander  Severus,  6,  14 
Krafft-Ebing,  cited,  234 
Kreulzer,  on  Herodian,  8 



Lactantius,  cited,  230 

Lambesa  in  Pannonia,  S8 

Lampridius,  3,  6,  16,  iS,  19 ;  on 
name  "  Varius,"  36  ;  on  Soaemias, 
78  ;  on  the  period  of  fanaticism, 
98 ;  on  the  entry  into  the  city, 
108 ;  on  jNIaesa  and  Soaemias  in 
Senate,  119;  on  Senaculum,  121; 
on  Antonine's  neglect  of  state  for 
religion,  124 ;  on  Antonine's  in- 
fideUties,  126  ;  on  Alexander,  138  ; 
on  Alexander's  name,  144 ;  on  the 
reasons  for  Senate's  reticence,  150  ; 
on  plot  against  Alexander,  152  ;  on 
Antonine's  danger,  154 ;  discrep- 
ancies, 155 ;  on  possible  date  of 
disowning,  1 59 ;  on  Sabinus,  Ulpian, 
and  Silvinus,  163  ;  reasons  for 
Antonine's  murder,  165  ;  on  unfit 
appointments,  179  ;  on  Antonine's 
desire  for  conquest,  185  ;  on  the 
Emperor's  name  and  history,  185  ; 
on  buildings  erected,  186  ;  on  date 
of  Alexander's  accession,  192 ;  on 
Antonine's  sagacity,  198  ;  on  Julius 
Paulus,  205  ;  on  Antonine's  wives 
generally,  20S  ;  on  Julius  Paulus' 
banishment,  209 ;  on  Antonine's 
use  for  wives,  215  ;  on  Antonine's 
moods  when  married  to  Annia,  223 ; 
impossibility  of  his  stories,  227 ; 
ascribes  Elagabalus'  moderation  to 
Maesa,  233 ;  on  his  passion  for 
flowers,  236 ;  on  his  castration, 
238,  276 ;  on  Zoticus,  240 ;  on 
Elagabalus'  effeminacy,  241  ;  on 
his  fastidiousness,  248 ;  on  his 
jewellery,  249  ;  on  cost  of  his  feasts, 
253  ;  on  his  pranks,  262  ;  on  his 
wanton  waste,  265  ;  condemns  An- 
tonine's religion,  267  ;  on  Diana's 
statue,  277  ;  on  Elagabalus'  human 
sacrifices,  280 

Lanciani,    concerning  Julius   Avitus' 
house  on  Aesquiline,  32 

Lecrivain,  16 

Leptis  Magna,  birthplace  of  Septimius 
Severus,  27 

Liber     Generationis,    on     length     of 

Antonine's  reign,  191 
Ligorius,  199 
Locusta,  159 
LoUius     Urbicus,    confounded     with 

!Marius  Maximus,  15,  19 
Lucilla,    reputed    mother   of    Annia 

Faustina,  222 
Lupus,  nickname  of  Bassianus,  35 
Lyons,  birthplace  of  Caracalla,  29 

Macrinus,  6,  7,  17,  22,  32,  41,  43,  81, 
112,  178;  becomes  Emperor,  44; 
usurpation  and  fall,  46-76  ;  date  of 
tribunicial  renewal,  197 

Maecenas,  203 

Maesa,  Julia,  7,  18,  27  ;  comes  to 
Rome,  31  ;  her  family,  t^^,  40;  re- 
turns to  Emesa,  45-6  ;  makes  Bassi- 
anus high  priest,  49 ;  goes  to  the 
camp,  56  ;  compared  with  Deborah, 
70  ;  position  in  state,  78  ;  Augusta, 
86  ;  desires  to  go  to  Rome,  92  ; 
arranges  Antonine's  first  marriage, 
109 ;  in  Senate,  120  ;  and  Annia 
Faustina,  134 ;  starts  Alexander  plot, 
138;  her  scheme,  141;  partial  failure 
of  plot,  147  ;  hatred  of  Antonine, 
157;  has  Alexander  designated  Con- 
sul, 160  ;  agreeable  to  Julia  Paula's 
divorce,  210  ;  no  friend  of  Severa's, 

217  ;  scheme  for  her  divorce,  218  ; 
plan  of  alliance  with  Roman  nobility, 

218  ;  influence  on  government,  233  ; 
and  Elagabalus'  youth,  247. 

Mamaea,  instigator  of  Antonine's 
murder,  18  ;  and  Origan,  20  ;  posi- 
tion and  character,  38,  40  ;  helps  in 
first  plot,  131  ;  and  Annia  Faustina, 
135;  starts  Alexander  plot,  138;  cor- 
rupts police,  145  ;  partial  failure  of 
plot,  147  ;  Mamaea's  guardians  for 
Alexander,  152  ;  part  in  the  plot 
against  Antonine's  life,  156;  "takes 
precautions  for  Alexander's  safety, 
159;  part  in  Antonine's  murder, 
166 ;  her  probable  plan  for  the 
murder,    171  ;   subsequent    vilifica- 



tion  of  Antonine,  172  ;  helps  Pom- 
ponius  Bassus'  plot,  219 

Marcia,  first  wife  of  Septimius 
Severus,  27,    29 

Marcianus,  Gessianus,  38 

Marcomanni,  Antonine's  desire  to 
conquer,  184 

Marcus  Aurelius,  84,  144,  246  ; 
relationshiji  with  Annia  Faustina, 

Marcus,  Kmperor,  5 

Marius  Maximus,  author  of  De  vitis 
imperatorunt ,  5  ;  credibility  as  a 
source,  6  ;  confounded  with  Lollius 
Urbicus,  15,  19;  Macrinus'  corre- 
spondence with  cited,  84 ;  on 
Antonine's  entry  into  city,  1 1 1 

Martialis,  the  murderer  of  Caracalla, 


Masculinus  X'alens,  176 

Mediobarbus,  on  liberalities,  190, 

Messalina,  compared  with  Elagabalus, 

Mithra,  2;  the  most  determined  op- 
ponent of  Jehovah,  96  ;  popu- 
larity in  Rome,  114,  117  ;  identified 
with  Urania,  133  ;  and  with  Ela- 
gabal  worship,  268  ;  takes  the  place 
of  Jupiter,  271 

Moguntiacum,  88 

Moll,  cited,  234 

Mommsen,  defends  Scriptores,  10 ; 
on  the  date  of  Diadumenianus'  ele- 
vation, 65  ;  on  length  of  Antonine's 
reign,  192 

Monza  diploma,  on  Alexander's  posi- 
tion, 158 

Morison,  Cotter,  cited,  20 

Mueller,  5,  6,  8 

Murissimus,  156 

Nero,  23,  76,  159,  17S  ;  influence 
on  morals,  203 ;  abnormal,  229 ; 
palace  described,  245 ;  ever  popular, 
246  ;  exceeded  by  Elagabalus  in  ex- 
travagance, 250 ;  his  use  of  per- 
fumes, 257 

Nerva,  5 

Nestor,  Julianus,  90 

Nicomedia,  Antonine  winters  at,  93  ; 
length  of  stay  discussed,  94  ;  Anto- 
nine assumes  the  name  Elagabalus 
at,  99  ;  Elagabalus'  popularity  dis- 
appears, 103  ;  departure  from,  107 

Niebuhr,  20 

Niehues,  6 

Oppolzer,  on  the  date  of  the  eclipse,  55 

Orcus  (Pluto),  temple  of,  site  of 
Eliogabalium,  113 

Origen,  his  journey  to  Court,  19 

Orosius,  20 

Otho,  23,  250  ;  compared  with  Ela- 
gabalus, 253 

Padua,  a  reputed  birthplace  of  Gens 

Cornelia,  205 
Paetus,  Valerianus,  90 
Pagi,  on  tribunicial  renewal,  194 
Palladium,  removed  to  Eliogabalium, 

118;  history  of,  129 
Papia  Poppoea,  Lex,  cited,  204 
Papinian,  21,  31 
Parthian  campaign,  41,  107 
Parthian    Legion,    at    Apamea,    60 : 

attempted  corruption  bySeiusCarus, 

63,  139 

Parthian  medal,  22 

Pasciucco,  on  Lampridius,  15 

Pauly,  on  the  buildings  of  the  reign. 
187  ;  on  genealog)'  of  Annia  Faus- 
tina, 222  ;  on  her  age,  223 

Pertinax,  5,  30 
]    Peter,  Hermann,  3,  27  ;  on  Dexippus, 
9  ;  on  Lollius  Urbicus,  15 

Petronius,  on  freedmen,  iSo  ;  quoted, 

Philostratus,  31 

Pica  Caerianus,  90 

Pignorius,  on  Gens  Cornelia,  205 

Plautianus,  41 

Flew,  6 

Pliny,  on  value  of  myrrhin,  264 

PoUio,  Consul  Suffectus,  85 

PoUio,  Trebellius,  3,  1 1 



Pollux,  127 

Pomponius    Bassus,    134,    139,    188 ; 

plot    in    connection   with    Aquilia 

Severa's    marriage,     131  ;     Consul 

and  Governor  of  Mysia,  his  offices, 

219  ;  date  of  death,  221 
Porta  Praenestina,  113,  275 
Praefecti  Urbis,  mooted  by  Antonine, 

appointed  by  Alexander,  198 
Preuner,  on  Aquilia's  position,  211 
Primus  Cornelianus,  68 
Procession  of  the  God,  probable  date, 

174  ;  origin  of,  175 
Prosopographia,  on  date  of  Antonine's 

murder,   191  ;  on  jurisprudence  of 

the  reign,  205 
Protogenes,  125 
Prusias,  93 

Ramsay,  on  the  procession,  175  ;  on 
genealogy  of  Annia  Faustina,  222 

Renaissance,  compared  with  Roman 
spirit  of  atheism,  201,  270 

Rescripts,  bear  Antonine's  name  after 
supposed  death,  199 

Richter,  4 

Roerth,  on  the  journey  across  Asia, 

Roman  religion,  described,   116;   its 

civic    nature    and    the    Emperor's 

position,    213;     genesis    of,    269; 

alien  to  natural  religion,  282 
Rubensohn,    on   date   of    Antonine's 

murder,  191 
Ruebel,  6 

Sabinus  Aquilius,  Severa's  father, 
banished,  163  ;  confused  by  Lam- 
pridius  with  Sabinus  Tiberius,  jurist, 
164  ;  position,  215 

Sabinus,  Fabius,  brother  of  Aquilia 

'    Severa,  216 

Salzer,  on  date  of  Antonine's  murder, 

Samsigeramus,  26 

Sardanapalus,  Dion's  name  for  An- 
tonine, 152,  200 

Saumaise,  22 

Schulz,  6,  15  ;  on  Antonine  House, 

Scythian  Legion,  quartered  at  Emesa 
under  Commodus,  26 

Seeck,  11,  13 

Seius  Carus,  139,  188 

Seleucid  monarchy,  26 

Seleucus,  Consul  a.d.  221,  195 

Senaculum,  Soaemias  president  of, 
34,  78,  121  ;  hall  built  for,  187 

Senate,  subservience  of,  14;  Macrinus' 
letters  to,  56 ;  desire  to  be  rid  of 
Macrinus,  58  ;  informed  of  Diadu- 
menianus'  elevation,  64  ;  Antonine's 
letters  and  amnesty  to,  82  ;  registers 
Antonine's  decrees,  85 ;  did  not 
declare  Antonine  priest  of  Elagabal, 
95>  97  j  ^t  Elagabal  worship,  116  ; 
attitude  towards  Aquilia  Severa's 
wedding,  131  ;  tries  traitors,  131  ; 
adoption  of  Alexander  before,  143  ; 
ordered  to  disown  Alexander,  150  ; 
Alexander  recognised  Consul  be- 
fore, 161  ;  dissolved,  163  ;  orders 
the  erasure  of  Antonine's  name, 
198  ;  creates  Julia  Paula  Augusta, 
209 ;  and  marriage  of  Aquilia 
Severa,  215  ;  and  Pomponius 
Bassus,  220 

Seneca,  121,  204 

Septimius  Severus,  27,  31,  38,  144; 
honours  Macrinus,  41 ;  builds  Mith- 
raic  temple,  1 14  ;  date  of  tribu- 
nicial renewal,  19& ;  employs  Julius 
Paulus,  206  ;  uses  Pomponius 
Bassus,  219 

Serapion,  42 

Serviez,  en  the  order  of  Antonine's 
wives,  207  ;  on  Aquilia  Severa, 

Severus  or  Verus,  a  pretender,  88 

Sextus  Rufus,  20 ;  on  site  of  Elioga- 
balium,  113 

Sextus  Varius  Marcellus,  husband  of 
Soaemias,  34,  113 

Silius  Messala,  plot  in  connection  with 
Aquilia  Severa's  marriage,  131, 
139,  216,  219 



Silvinus,  Alexander's  tutor,  killed, 

Soaemias,  character,  33 ;  compared 
with  Mamaea,  39,  40 ;  and  the 
legionaries,  53 ;  at  battle  of 
Immae,  70  ;  position  in  state,  78  ; 
Augusta,  86  ;  position  in  the  Senate, 
120 ;  tries  to  frustrate  plot  against 
Antonine,  153;  persuades  Antonine 
to  admit  Alexander  Consul,  161  ; 
murder  of,  166 ;  reasons  for  her 
murder,  171 

Sodales  Antoniniani,  on  date  of  adop- 
tion, 145 

Sohemais,  25 

Solomon's  temple  compared  with 
Emesan  temple,  50 

"  Spartianus,"  Aelius,  3,  11 

Spem  Veterem  gardens,  113,  153, 
158,  262 

Spintries,  160,  240 

Stobbe,  on  date  of  Antonine's  murder, 
193  ;  on  tribunicial  renewal,  194 

Strabo,  25 

Studniczka,  on  Eliogabalium,  113 

Suburra,  district  of  Rome,  262 

Suetonius,  13,  23,  79,  227,  250 ;  on 
Senaculum,  121  ;  on  Vestals,  131, 
212  ;  on  life  generally,  20 ;  on 
Caligula,  203 

Summer  temple,  site  of,  112;  date 
of  completion,  174 

Sylla,  Governor  of  Cappadocia,  a 
traitor,  90 ;  compared  with  Julius 
Paulus,  205 

Tacitus,  on  Christianity,  228 
Tammuz,  month  of  processions,  175 
Tana,  in  Algeria,  arch  to  Macrinus 

at,  75 
Taurus,  Mount,    temple  of  Faustina 

on,  92 
TertuUian,  on  Antinous,  231 
Tertullian,  on  Julia  Domna,  30 ;  on 

divorce,  204 
Theodosius,  10 
Thermae  Caracallae,   187  :  \  arianae 

or  Surae,  187 

Thrace,     Eutychianus     fights    under 

Commodus    in,     53  ;     Alexander's 

spectral  journey,  144 
Thyatira,  coin  of  Diadumenianus,  65 
Ti'oerinus  and  Tractitius,  nicknames 

of  Antonine   gpven    by    Dion    and 

Larripridius,  200 
Tiberius,    Emperor,    117,    160,    164, 

Titus,  23,  178 
Titus    Claudius    Severus,    father    of 

Annia  Faustina,  222 
Trajan,  5 

Triccianus,  Aelius  Decius,  90 
Tripolis,  coins  struck  at,  208 
Tristran,  as  critic,  22  ;  on  Macrinus, 

47  ;  on  Julia   Paula,   206 ;    on  the 

order  of  the  wives,  207  ;  on  Annia 

Faustina's  genealogy,  222 
Tropea,  15 

Turre,  22  ;  tribunicial  renewal,  194 
Tyro,  a  reputed  birthplace  of  Gens 

Cornelia,  205 

Ulpian,  21,  31  ;  dedication  of  works, 

Urania,  Astarte,  Tanit,  Juno  Coelestis, 
shrine   in    Forum,    132 ;    marriage 
with  Elagabal,  133  ;  amalgamated 
to  the  worship  of  Elagabal,  278 

Valerius  Ferminus,  176 
Valerius  Maximus  quoted,  242 
Valsecchius,   22 ;    on    tribunicial    re- 
newal, 194 
Velletri,  home  of  Soaemias  and   her 

husband,  34 
Vespasian,  26,  141 
Vespasian  amphitheatre,  246 
Vesta,   Minerva,  or   Pallas,  to  serve 
Elagabal,  97  ;  alliance  of  Elagabal 
with,   114;  story  of  the   marriage 
with     Elagabal,     129 ;     shrine    in 
Forum,    132,    189 ;     amalgamated 
with  Elagabal,  278 
Vestals,  community  discussed,   211  ; 
supporters  of  civic   religion,    214  ; 
arbiters  of  public  feeling,  261 



Victor,  Aurelius,  on  site  of  Elioga- 
balium,  ii,  19,  27,  113  ;  on  length 
of  reign,  193  ;  on  Antonine's  castra- 
tion, 276 

Victoria  Aeterna  inscription,  139 

Vigiles  inscription,  145 

Virgil,  23 

Vitellius,  23,  236,  250,  253 

Vopiscus,  3,  II,  13 

Walwick  Chesters  inscription,  title  of 

Sac.  Elag.  erased,  199 
Wirth,  on  the  date  of  the  proclamation, 

55  ;  on  date  of  battle  of  Immae, 

69  ;  on  arrival  in  Rome,  107 
Wissowa,  on  site  of  summer  temple, 


Wolfflin,    on    Vopiscus,    3,    11  ;     on 

Mommsen,  12 
Wotton,  quoted,  89  ;  on  Gannys,  102 

Xiphilinus,  7,  52,  113;  on  Euty- 
chianus,  80 ;  on  Antonine,  95  ;  on 
Antonine's  marriage  with  Hierocles, 
239 ;  on  Zoticus,  239 ;  condemns 
Antonine's  religion,  267 

Zoticus,  his  story,  239 

Zonaras,  19  ;  on  Antonine's  amulets, 
184  ;  on  nicknames  of  the  Emperor, 
200 ;  on  Elagabalus'  castration,  238 ; 
on  Zoticus,  239 

Zosimus,  19 


Printed  bv  R.  &  R.  Clark,  Limited,  Edittburgh. 


J3||^L/II^V1      %Jtm.'\^    •    .         \Jhm» 

DG  Hay,   John  Stuart 

303  The  amazing  emperor 

H3  Heliogabalus